The CRN program develops excellence and collaboration in research through shared resources and knowledge exchange.

In 2011 Victoria University (VU) received a $6.14 million grant from the Australian government through its Collaborative Research Network (CRN) program, to develop the University’s research and capacity by collaborating with other institutions in areas of common interest.

Research partners & activity

As part of the CRN program, VU worked alongside the University of Melbourne (UoM), Deakin University, Edith Cowan University and the CSIRO in three major areas or elements of research:

  • Water management
  • Education
  • Clinical exercise and active living.

Across these research ‘elements’, the VU CRN project supported; 6 PhD scholarships, 6 Postdoctoral Fellowships, 3 Senior Research Fellowships, and teaching relief to more than 25 VU academics.

Immediate expected outcomes of this investment were a measurable increase in the level of joint research activities with our partners including"research publications, applications for competitive grants, supervision of HDR students, and increases in the number of ‘research active’ staff.

VU has raised research capacity in the three research elements and across the University as a whole, as seen by measurable increases in:

  • joint publications - 90.77% increase in journal publications with main partners (UoM and Deakin) in the 3 years during CRN (average 82.67 total publications) versus the 3 years before CRN (average 43.33 total publications)
  • joint applications for competitive grants - over 319 external applications submitted with successful applications attracting external income to VU of $5.67m (to date) directly attributable to CRN projects and ~$12m (2012-2014 data) indirectly attributable to the ‘CRN associate’ staff involved in the CRN (i.e. broader VU capacity building)
  • increased supervision of HDR students - steady increases (7.25%) in HDR enrolments at VU in 3 years during CRN versus the 3 years before CRN
  • increased research activity of CRN staff across the 3 research elements - VU activity index average increases for CRN associates of 2-3 fold increases from previous calculations (2.94 fold for Water Management; 2.55 fold for Clinical Exercise and Active Living and 2.23 fold for Education).

VU has exceeded our contracted CRN key performance indicators. We have achieved longer term outcomes including sustainable research partnerships, increases in broader institutional capacity in focussed research areas, and real-world contributions to the national research and innovation priorities.

Water management

Led by Professor Stephen Gray from VU's Institute for Sustainability & Innovation (pre-2018), this CRN research element has provided an excellent example of how deliberate and genuine cross-institutional collaboration can result in successful and ongoing partnerships.

Through the CRN, ISI has created sustainable partnerships in existing and new areas of research focus with Deakin University e.g. through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project on metal membrane technology, and with the University of Melbourne (UoM) e.g. through an Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence grant supported by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

A variety of publications and research proposals continue to be jointly submitted, with additional jointly supervised HDR students now flowing through from successful grants. The CRN has also effectively built VU's critical mass and enabled capacity for fundamental science in the social science and environmental economics areas of water management . This was a key objective of the CRN project for this element - through industry and community collaborations and other funding successes.

Education research

The VU CRN project was integral to the establishment of the new Victoria Institute (VI) at VU in 2011 by Professor Roger Slee. A key objective of CRN activity in this research element was to develop international and national networks and build the capacity to produce real impacts for inclusive education through world-class research. During the CRN period VI has formed to develop:

  • a highly regarded research identity - Inclusive Education Research- with global reach across at least 37 countries
  • an impressive scholarly output with identifiable impacts that articulate with the VU strategic plan and key industry and academic groups
  • a growing funding stream including the Victorian Department of Education and Training
  • a platform for sustainability including an impressive constellation of research, professional and community networks
  • a new research centre – Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES)

Related research expertise:

Exercise & active living research projects

Led by Professor Michael McKenna, this element has used CRN to drive significant increases in productivity within the Institute for Health and Sport, through a large teaching relief program and the generation of cohesive and focused collaborative research teams - both internally across Colleges and externally with the University of Melbourne via Australian Institute of Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS) at Western Centre for Health Education and Research WCHRE).

Through the CRN, the Institute for Health and Sport has created sustainable partnerships with University of Melbourne e.g. through an Australian Research Council Discovery Project and a National Health and Medical Research Council Project grant. A number of successful collaborations have also been formed e.g. with the Florey Institute and Monash University, and funding sources diversified to include a range of philanthropic and community grants.