The Government has backed 989 new research projects to begin next year under the latest $416.6 million round of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding.

UNSW is one of the big winners of the round, picking up $47.8 million spread across 109 projects, topping off what its deputy vice chancellor of research, Professor Nicholas Fisk, called a “bumper year” for the university on the ARC front.

With an earlier funding round UNSW “secured $150 million of the $863 million announced by the ARC in 2016”, he said.

“That’s 17.4 percent of total funding,” Professor Fisk said.

“We’re the only university to yield more than $100 million – a bumper year.

“These results are a real testament to the wealth, breadth and depth of talent here, as well as to UNSW’s underpinning of its research trajectory.”

Other large universities also did well, with the University of Melbourne picking up $44 million in the latest round, and ANU landing $43 million of its own.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the latest round of ARC grants represented “a crucial investment in growing a smart Australia, driving innovation and delivering real outcomes that benefit all Australians.”

“This funding represents a significant investment in a wide variety of fundamental and applied research projects, growing Australia’s research capacity and infrastructure, and supporting the next generation of researchers,” he said.

Of the $416.6 million in offer in the latest round, the funding was broken down by:

  • Discovery Projects —$234.7 million for 630 projects
  • Discovery Indigenous —$4.6 million for 11 projects
  • Discovery Early Career Researcher Award —$71.7 million for 200 projects
  • Future Fellowships —$77.0 million for 100 projects
  • Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment, and Facilities (LIEF) —$28.6 million for 48 projects

The Government highlighted a number of the projects to have been successful in the latest funding round.

They include a $376,000 project led by Professor Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas at The University of Melbourne to improve the coverage, mobile access, miniaturisation, bandwidth and networking of optical wireless systems.

Another $187,222 will be put into research led by Dr Kathleen Ellis at Curtin University of Technology to understand how people with a disability use smartphones to navigate the urban environment. The aim is to “improve access to public space and essential services.”

It also highlighted some of the mid-career researchers – known as ARC future fellows – that received four-year grants.

They include Dr Wei Kong Pang from The University of Wollongong, who will lead a project “to develop innovative technologies for high-performance lithium-ion batteries for portable electronic devices, including electric vehicles.”

Another successful future fellow addition was Associate Professor Ilya Shadrivov from ANU who “will lead a project to develop user-friendly smart materials for metadevices for use in light control, high-bandwidth wireless communication, and security.”

A separate set of ANU researchers picked up $502,453 “to create a laser system for the first laser guide star for use in astronomy, satellite tracking and mitigation of the threat of space debris.”

The Government did not call out specific statistics on how many of its funded projects have some form of industry involvement, but it has generally been seeking a higher degree of commercialisation from university-led research efforts.