Hot on the heels of the announcement of Mid-Career Industry Fellowships by the ARC on April 24, 2023, the Early Career Industry Fellowships (IE23) were announced on May 5. These fellowships will support 50 early career researchers to conduct innovative research to help solve important industry challenges.
In our previous blog, we looked at the track record characteristics of successful mid-career fellows. So how do the early career fellows compare? To answer this question, we gathered data from publicly available profiles and publication databases to see what we could learn.
If you are considering an application in the next round, or missed out this year, this information may help you benchmark your track record and put you on the path towards a more successful future application.
University or industry-based researchers?
While predominantly university-based researchers, we did see some industry-university mobility in the early career fellows, with at least one fellow coming from an industry position and many others with strong industry backgrounds and experience.
Traditional outputs/publication metrics
Publication metrics are often used to assess the track record of researchers and can include the total number of publications, h-index and citations. These metrics varied amongst the successful IE23 fellows. The h-index followed a normally distributed pattern with a mean h-index of 13.3(ranging from 2 to 45)with only one outlier (Figure 1). The mean number of publications was 39 (ranging from 5 to 142) (Figure 2) and mean citations of 1,245 (ranging from 45 to 20,668). These values are slightly lower than the equivalent ARC DECRA fellows funded in 2022 and 2023 who had a mean h-index of 14.7 (ranging from 1 to 92) and mean number of publications of49 (ranging from 2 to 408).
Few (7/50) of the early career fellows had patents in their track record, which might reflect the early career stage of these researchers. For some fellows without patents, they demonstrated research impact through published industry reports or producing research tools and/or methods that are now widely used in the broader research community and have significant commercial potential.
Prior funding success
A dive into the fellows’ previous funding success found:
Category 1 funding success including ARC
Two fellows had ARC Linkage Project funding – for one fellow, this prior project was with the key industry partner in their awarded fellowship.
Three fellows had ARC Discovery Projects in their track record, either as named chief investigator (CI) or as partner investigator (PI).
None of the early career fellows had an ARC DECRA fellowship in their track record – in contrast to the mid-career fellows, where eight had previously held a DECRA.
Three fellows had NHMRC funding success, including a Partnership Project and Synergy Grant, while another was named on an MRFF.
Other funding including industry
At least 14 fellows were previously awarded industry funding, and four had philanthropic funding from charitable trusts or foundations.
Most fellows had received internal grants from their previous or current institutions.
Five of the fellows were previously awarded funding through specialist Australian Government grants including from the Department of Health and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Support Program.
In summary, none of the IE23 fellows had previously held an ARC or NHMRC fellowship. They demonstrated varied success in obtaining prior funding from a variety of sources including Category 1 grants (i.e. ARC, NHMRC and MRFF), larger industry or philanthropic-funded projects and other smaller awards from scientific societies or academic institutions (represented in Figure 2).
Relationship with the identified industry partner(s)
In Criterion 1, applicants were asked to demonstrate the significance of the industry challenge they proposed to address and their anticipated pathways to impact through translation, adoption and/or commercialisation of their research. As with the IM23 Mid-Career Fellows, for most early career fellows (43 of 50), we identified a strong existing relationship with their Key Industry Partner/s. This was either through individual collaborations or engagement with their current research group or collaborative network. These previous partnerships strengthened the engagement between fellows and Key Industry Partner/s and potentially facilitated longer term collaborations funded through this fellowship.
Two fellows were involved with startup companies or organisations with their Key Industry Partner/s. Another three fellows were partnered with Key Industry Partners who have were developed by, and have strategic partnerships, with their host Institutions.
At least six fellows had existing collaborative research projects with their industry partners resulting in research publications that laid the foundation for the research proposed in their successful application.
At least two fellows had either current or recent ARC Linkage Projects with their Key Industry Partner/s signifying long standing research collaborations.
At least six fellows were previously employed in some professional capacity by their Key Industry Partner/s and have retained a collaborative relationship during their move to academia.
Over half the number of fellows (29 of 50) had only one Key Industry Partner and 14 fellows had two. Of the remaining seven fellows, two had three Key Industry Partners, two had four Key Industry Partners, two had six Key Industry Partners and one fellow had seven Key Industry Partners. In three instances, we could not find any relationship between the fellow and any industry partners, however, this might reflect limitations on publicly available information or other limitations on what we could search and find.
Field of research
We looked at the range of research fields in which funding was awarded. Like the Mid-Career Industry Fellowships, engineering projects dominated (20/50), followed by agricultural, veterinary and food sciences (six); and four in each of biological sciences, chemical sciences, and environmental sciences. There were a wide range of projects in other areas, including single projects in each of commerce, management, tourism and services; creative arts and writing; Indigenous studies; information and computing sciences; and language, communication and culture (Figure 3).
Overall, we found that the necessary ingredient to a successful application is a strong relationship between fellows and their Key Industry Partner/s. These collaborations demonstrated the potential to enhance research translation and commercialisation (Criterion 1: Impact) and the fellows’ commitment to enhancing the collaborative relationships through industry focussed research (Criterion 2: Commitment and alignment).
Fellows possessed a strong track record and evidence of their expertise and capability to lead the proposed project in collaboration with industry and/or other research end-user groups (Criterion 3: Candidate capability). An important part of their success was to demonstrate the involvement of Key Industry Partners in the conceptualisation and design of innovative research methods that addresses the industry challenge leading to mutually beneficial outcomes (Criterion 4: Research quality and innovation).
Are you thinking about applying for the next round of ARC Early Career Industry Fellowships? If you would like to discuss our strategic review service or learn about the range of services we offer, including our grant development coaching programs for grant submissions, such as the ARC’s Industry Fellowships Scheme, email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.