Annual report

Research

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The University of Western Australia is a comprehensive, research-intensive university with an emphasis on high-quality, high-impact research.

In 2014 the University continued its steady climb up the world rankings, now ranked fourth in Australia and 88 internationally by the world's foremost performance indicator, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published by China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The University of Western Australia promotes interdisciplinary research through its institutes and centres, which builds on the disciplinary strengths of its faculties and schools. Six strategic research areas have been appropriately identified—plant sciences and sustainable food production; ecology, evolution and the environment; energy and minerals; Indigenous knowledge; medicine and health; and the mind and nervous system.

In 2014, UWA won more than $215 million of funding from government, industry, business, private and international sources to support its research activities. This includes nearly $36 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to support a broad range of projects in the national health priority areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health, diabetes, injury, obesity, dementia, arthritis and asthma. Included in this are two NHMRC Clinical Centres of Research Excellence each worth $2.5 million: one led by Professor Jonathan Carapetis to develop an endgame for rheumatic heart disease; and another led by Professor Timothy Jones for research into improving the lives of young people with Type 1 diabetes.

There was renewed funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) in 2014 to support the highly successful ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, which is hosted at UWA. $26 million has been made available over seven years to support collaborative research across all the partners (The University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide, Australian National University and La Trobe University) focused on understanding and enhancing plant energy systems for greater yield in the face of harsh and changing environments.

In 2014, four researchers at UWA won more than $3 million from the ARC Future Fellowship Scheme to fund a diverse range of projects—from the origin of life on earth and a history of soviet war experiences to the future crops in a phosphatescarce world, and 3D optical microscopy expected to facilitate unprecedented insights into the structure of tissue. Other notable individual awards of excellence were Professor Ryan Lister who was awarded the 2014 Prime Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year for his work in the area of epigenomes in the human brain; Professor Ian Small who was named WA Scientist of the Year for his work on how plants capture, store and release energy; and two internationally acclaimed physicists at UWA, Professors Eugene Ivanov and Michael Tobar, who were awarded the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Clunies Ross Award for their work on new technologies based on microwave circuit and sapphire dielectric resonator technology.

In 2014, UWA researchers were also recognised for their innovation. Resonance Health is a start-up company which began at UWA and was named overall WA Innovator of the Year for its HepaFat-Scan, a non-invasive technology that enables magnetic resonance imaging scanners to measure the concentration of fat in the human liver. Also, the world's smallest microscope developed by UWA researchers was awarded the emerging innovation category because it can fit into a needle ('Microscope in a Needle') and is capable of detecting cancer cells often missed by surgeons.

Industry and Government have understood the value of UWA research by making significant investments in 2014. Woodside made a $10 million investment into the development of the UWA EZone precinct which is critical to the future of engineering in Western Australia. The EZone will provide a network of flexible teaching and research spaces to promote collaboration, innovation and new thinking. In addition, the Western Australian Government injected $4 million as part of an $11 million rebuild of the Watermans Bay Marine Research Centre. This beachside hub will become a base for more than 40 scientists and research staff working in the Indian Ocean marine environment, and is a collaboration between UWA, Federal and State Governments, CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

The University understands the need to fully cost its research activities, particularly as funding from industry and non-government sources increases, and so UWA has developed a detailed pricing policy for research contracts and consultancies.