New $1m joint investment to kick start medical research

30 March 2015

Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney and philanthropic organisation The Balnaves Foundation are giving next-generation medical leaders a kick start via a new $1m program to boost the competitive grant funding success of early career researchers.

The 'Early Career Researcher Kick Start Grants' is a new three-year joint initiative made possible through a significant commitment by The Balnaves Foundation. The gift will build on a successful seven-year investment program by the medical school, which is solving a major challenge facing all early career researchers.

"Early career researchers are the lifeblood of all successful medical research projects and face an increasing battle for grant funding due to their limited body of work, lack of experience and intense competition," says Professor Bruce Robinson, Dean of Sydney Medical School.

"But they face a classic dilemma: they need research expertise to receive grant funding, but they need grant funding to develop research expertise."

Currently only 15 per cent of all National Health and Medical Research Council grant applications are successful, a figure that has declined steadily over the past five years.

Today, 28 early career researchers from Sydney Medical School have received 'Kick Start' grants to fund pilot projects that will help them compete for future competitive grant funding, and help shape the future of medical research in Australia.

"The partnership between Sydney Medical School and the Balnaves Foundation will provide a crucial building block, upon which early career researchers can take a significant leap forward in their career and contribute towards meaningful health outcomes," says Neil Balnaves AO, Founder of the Balnaves Foundation.

"It is an example of how philanthropic partnerships can significantly help to address key national issues and provide support for outstanding medical research in Australia."

"Young people often have 'out of the box' ideas and this type of research is often where breakthroughs occur. We want the novel ideas of these 28 young researchers to have the opportunity of coming to fruition and are excited to follow their progress over the next few years," says Mr Balnaves.

The joint program is modelled on the Sydney Medical School's seven year investment to build the capacity and necessary experience for early career researchers to succeed.

Since 2008, Sydney Medical School has tracked the success of 37 early career researchers it has supported with seed funding to progress their research careers.

Highlights include:

•100 per cent success rate - all 37 early career researchers secured competitive grants from Category 1 and/or Category 2 funders within 2 years
•Over $4m secured through competitive grants, representing a 282 per cent return on investment
•57 per cent secured fellowships obtained predominately through NHMRC and other Category 1 funders - well above the national trend of 32 per cent.
•79 per cent secured roles at the University of Sydney

Through this philanthropic gift, the Balnaves Foundation plays an important role in the University of Sydney's INSPIRED Campaign, which aims to raise $600 million by the end of 2017.