Tag Archives: Research Grants

Nimble funding for CRC-Ps

Featured image above: CSIRO, Norwood Industries and Solafast staff inspect a length of printed solar film. Credit: CSIRO

The new, nimble, business-led funding rounds that led to the Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-Ps) are winning praise across industry, government and academia for their fast turnaround time, focus, and appeal to small-to-medium enterprise.

With the second round of successful grants announced in early February 2017, there are now a total of 28 projects granted funds ranging from $425,000 to $3 million through the CRC-P initiative.

CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock says the initiative came out of a recommendation made by the Miles Review for “smaller collaborations operating on short project timelines with simpler governance and administration arrangements and less funding”.

“I think CRC-Ps will probably become more important to the start-up sector because it is a significant amount of money early in a company’s development,” says Peacock.

One such start-up benefiting from CRC-P funding is Solafast who, in partnership with CSIRO and Norwood Industries, received $1.6 million to help develop building materials that integrate flexible, printed solar films.

“The product we’re creating will look much better than standard solar panels on a roof, be quicker and easier to install, and allows for more flexible building design,” says Leesa Blazley, Solafast’s Director of Business Development.

The project brings together CSIRO’s expertise in printed solar films, Norwood’s experience in commercial printing, and Solafast’s roll-formed cladding. It is a partnership that is aiming to deliver a proof-of-concept product within two years.

“By the end of the project we’ll have a working prototype and be close to scaling up for commercial release,” says Blazley.  “Without the funding it would have been very difficult to develop a product that was market ready.”

CSIRO’s Dr Fiona Scholes, who is also working on the Solafast project, says the CRC-P funds are well geared towards the needs of CSIRO’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) industry partners.

“What we have found through our interactions with the Australian manufacturing industry is that they’re not short of ideas – they’ve got a real thirst for innovation – but the stumbling block is almost always lacking the funds to make something meaningful happen,” says Scholes, Group Leader in Industrial Innovation at CSIRO Manufacturing.

“Having that requirement to have an SME on these projects is accommodating the Australian manufacturing innovation ecosystem in a relevant way.”

Another CRC-P is using the funding opportunity to significantly advance an important diagnostic test that could help pick up metastatic cancer a lot earlier than is currently possible.

Dr John Deadman, CEO of Chemocopeia, which is leading this CRC-P, says the funding has been essential to moving the diagnostic test from theoretical to practical.

“Chemocopeia and the CSIRO had developed an understanding of the biological side of the project, but we didn’t have the expertise around setting up an assay system to clinical standard in an accredited format that would be able to be used rigorously and robustly,” Deadman says. 

With $582,500 from the CRC-P initiative, they have joined forces with Innoviron and 360biolabs, and are well on their way to developing the diagnostic assay.

“At the end of the year we hope to have a reproducible and robust system that we can start to test clinical samples with,” explains Deadman.

He also says that the set-up of the CRC-P funding is unique in fostering a greater focus among participants. “What’s good is it’s trying to tackle a specific problem rather than just make a particular stage in a bigger project.”

In the pipeline

The first round of CRC-P funding, which was announced in June 2016, funded 11 projects in total:

  • Integrated driver monitoring solution for heavy vehicles
  • Hydrocarbon fuel technology for hypersonic air breathing vehicles
  • Printed solar films for value-added building products for Australia
  • R&D to accelerate sustainable omega-3 production
  • Innovative prefabricated building systems
  • An antibody-based in-vitro diagnostic for metastatic cancer
  • High-performance optical telemetry system for ocean monitoring
  • Combined carbon capture from flue gas streams and mineral carbonation
  • Improving Australia’s radiopharmaceutical
    development capabilities
  • Innovation in advanced multi-storey housing manufacture
  • Future oysters

The second round, announced in February 2017, funded the following projects:

  • Large area perovskite photovoltaic material coating on glass substrate
  • High-power density motors incorporating advanced manufacturing methods
  • New super high oleic bio-based oil
  • Manufacturing of high performance building envelope systems
  • Lightweight automotive carbon
    fibre seats
  • Targeting tropomyosin as anti-cancer therapy
  • Glass technologies and photovoltaics in protected cropping
  • Modelling navigational aids in tidal inlets
  • Field deployable unit for the detection of perfluorinated contaminants
  • Universal solar module inspection and data storage system
  • Targeted therapy for sleep apnoea
  • Enhanced market agility for tea tree industry
  • Tech-enabled care for head trauma
  • Industrialisation of a diagnostic biosensor for bladder cancer
  • Wear life extension via surface engineered laser cladding for mining
  • Graphene supply chain certification
  • Power efficient wastewater treatment

– Bianca Nogrady

Find out more about the CRC Programme 

Read more CRC discovery in KnowHow 2017

funding reform

Changing the way we fund research

Attracting and keeping talented women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) fields is not just a matter of equality for the sake of equality. While it is important – young girls and women should have the same opportunities as men – great advances cannot be made without the collective diversity of thinking that both women and men bring to the table.

I feel I have been quite fortunate in my career to date. After my PhD, I left Australia to undertake a postdoc at Harvard with one child – four years later I returned with three.  While my productivity during the postdoc could be argued as lower than average, I was in hindsight insulated from ‘reality’ through the support of an amazing team and a major National Institutes of Health Program Grant.

Returning to Australia, I realised that without real recognition of career disruptions in an individual’s research track record, people like me would be considered ‘uncompetitive’. While this was not the only reason I left research, these hurdles did contribute to identifying my new career path.

While working at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) I had the privilege of managing funding schemes worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support great health and medical researchers. More importantly, I was able to establish the Women in Health Science Committee.

Through the work of this committee we were able to implement a number of strategies that aimed to both acknowledge the difficulties women face in the field of research, and secondly to address issues around the retention and progression of women in the field. This included consideration of career disruptions, part-time opportunities and making institutions who received NHMRC funds take stock of their gender equity policies and practices. While great advances have been made, there is still so much more that needs to be done and it cannot rely solely on the shoulders of funding agencies.


“If we don’t focus on attracting and retaining bright and intelligent women we will continue to lose the capacity to make real progress in society through poor management of this valuable resource.”


Recently I have joined the Academy of Science to work with the Science in Australia Gender Equality (SAGE) team.  SAGE is a national accreditation program that recognises, promotes and rewards excellence in advancing gender equality and diversity in STEMM in the higher education system.

While it is in its early days, I hope that SAGE or a similar accreditation model becomes a permanent feature of the sector and that funding agencies continue to reform practices to encourage women to be recognised for their efforts. We need many talented and innovative brains working in the STEMM fields.

If we don’t focus on attracting and retaining bright and intelligent women we will continue to lose the capacity to make real progress in society through poor management of this valuable resource.

Dr Saraid Billiards

Director of the Research Grants team at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

Read next: Jacinta Duncan, Director of the Gene Technology Access Centre, says industry-school partnerships are key to a gender balanced STEM workplace.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

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