University of Sydney grant success to have real-world impact

1 November 2011

University of Sydney researchers will pursue breakthroughs across the broadest range of disciplines in Australia thanks to new government funding announced on Tuesday.

The federal government's National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP), administered by the Australian Research Council, aims to support top-quality research that leads to the discovery of new ideas.

The funding announced on Tuesday falls into two broad programs, 'Discovery' and 'Linkage'.

University of Sydney researchers will receive a total of $26.8 million in funding for Discovery projects starting in 2012, covering 89 different projects out of a national total of $236 million. The ARC will announce Discovery awards to support early-career researchers later this month.

The many issues University of Sydney academics will tackle include food security, the problems posed by heart disease and other related 'lifestyle diseases', the increasing inequality of income and wealth, the need to deepen understanding of democracy among young people and the impact of the internet on our work and life.

University of Sydney scientists will continue groundbreaking work, including probing how we can harness nanomaterials in the push towards more efficient energy systems. In the medical area, one project will look at possible links between live births and cancer by using lizard models, and another will study heart functions, providing critical information for medical researchers investigating genetically linked heart disease.

Showing the cross-disciplinary nature of Sydney research, one of our lawyers will consider the effectiveness of laws that aim to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes -- strengthening the evidence base for effective policy-making to support healthier lifestyles.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence congratulated the successful applicants.

"This new funding will enable University of Sydney researchers to continue to reach across disciplinary boundaries to make a real difference, both here in Australia but also internationally," Dr Spence said.

"Through developing new technologies, better understanding our society, and revealing solutions to health problems, this is an exciting time to be involved in research at the University of Sydney."

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jill Trewhella said the University's success in the funding round underlined the University's strength and depth in the fundamental research disciplines.

"Combined with our demonstrated success in translational research, particularly in the health-related fields, science and engineering, Sydney is poised to respond to calls to further strengthen Australian innovation and industry collaboration," she said.

"I am particularly pleased by the success of our researchers who are working across disciplines to find sustainable solutions," Professor Trewhella added. "In this area we've attracted funding in food security, archaeology, soil sciences, political science and agriculture, among others."

Other grants announced on Tuesday included the first funding awarded under the ARC's new 'Discovery Indigenous' scheme, which provides support for Indigenous researchers and postgraduate research students.

Dr Vicki Grieves, an Indigenous Research Fellow from the University's Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, has been awarded a $240,000 grant for a project exploring Aboriginal family histories. The grant will help Dr Grieves explore the historical relationship between race and gender within the colonial period in Australia, which has over time created complex layering in diverse Aboriginal families. Research into Aboriginal family formation reveals that telling foundational stories as part of the Australian narrative can strongly reinforce identity and wellbeing.

The ARC Linkage programs aim to encourage research cooperation between Australian universities and external organisations, including other research bodies and commercial organisations.

The University of Sydney received $2.5 million in ARC funding for nine Linkage projects. In addition to this the University can expect to receive at least $500,000 in contributions from partner organisations as well as further 'in-kind' contributions.

One of these projects will push the boundaries of mining safety research to deliver innovative and powerful tools to assess safety in different scenarios, leading to better procedures and training. Another aims to discover a new drug to treat malaria, but, in contrast to the traditional process of drug discovery, the research will be open source, meaning that anyone can participate and there will be no patents.

In Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Projects funding, the University of Sydney received $1.25m over four grants.

One of those projects will see the University administer a $600,000 grant, in collaboration with three other NSW universities, enabling cancer researchers to use a highly adaptable 'linear accelerator' for medical radiation research. Expected outcomes of the collaboration include improved tumour targeting, better patient safety, new medical devices and improved cancer outcomes.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Ben Wilson, 02 9114 0748, 0402 128 073,