Ideas Grants

For Funding Commencing in 2021

Research Office Contact:

This scheme is CLOSED. 

The Ideas Grants Scheme 2021 round is expected to open Wednesday 10 March 2021 and close Wednesday 5 May 2021.

Please note: It is strongly recommended all applicants subscribe to the Research Office NHMRC mailing list for up to date information on this scheme.

The Ideas Grant scheme is to support innovative research projects addressing a specific question(s). The expected outcomes are:

  • innovative and creative research
  • funding of researchers at all career stages, and
  • funding any area of health and medical research from discovery to implementation.

Funding is available for up to five years for all investigators at all career stages, including early and mid-career investigators, in any area of health and medical research, from discovery to implementation. Funding is available for direct research costs. The maximum number of Chief Investigators (CIs) allowed on an Ideas Grant application is ten.

The Ideas Grant scheme is not intended to support research where a clinical trial or cohort study is the primary objective. Applicants seeking funding to conduct a clinical trial or a cohort study should apply, instead, to NHMRC’s Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant scheme.

For further information please see the NHMRC website.


Ideas Grants for funding commencing in 2021 is open in Sapphire, the new NHMRC grant management system.

If you have an existing RGMS account, NHMRC have created a Sapphire account for you - select “Activate my account” from the Sapphire page. If you do not have an RGMS account, select “I need to Register” from the Sapphire page.

Video tutorials are available from the Sapphire Knowledge Base page and NHMRC has a dedicated Sapphire Help Desk:

T: 1800 500 983 (Australia)
+61 2 6217 9451 (International)

For more information on how to activate your Sapphire account, please visit the NHMRC website

Key dates

The below timeline is indicative only and may be subject to change

It is strongly recommended all applicants subscribe to the Research Office NHMRC mailing list for up to date information on this scheme.

Scheme Opens in Sapphire Wednesday 10 March 2021
UON Online Booking System Opens Thursday 11 March 2021
UON Eligibility and Compliance Check Period Thursday 25 March - Wednesday 21 April 2021
Minimum Data Requirements due in Sapphire 5:00 pm Wednesday 7 April 2021
UON Deadline for Final Application9:00 am Wednesday 28 April 2021
NHMRC Scheme Closes 5:00 pm Wednesday 5 May 2021
UON Deadline for Cancer Australia PdCCRS applications1TBC
UON Deadline for Cancer Council NSW Project Grants2TBC
Cancer Australia Deadline for PdCCRA ApplicationsTBC
CCNSW Deadline for Project GrantsTBC
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to commence their application in Sapphire ASAP after the scheme opens so that they can:
    • book their preferred day for an Eligibility and Compliance Check.
    • receive a copy of the scheme Essential Instructions developed by the Research Office to assist you in the completion of your application.
  • To enable the allocation of appropriate resourcing, bookings must be made prior to the defined scheme Eligibility and Compliance Check period. Access to book an Eligibility and Compliance Check will no longer be available once the Eligibility and Compliance Check period has commenced. This does not apply for schemes with continuous rounds (i.e. ARC Linkage Projects and NHMRC Partnership Projects).
  • The UON deadline for final application (the internal deadline) requires the provision of a submission-ready proposal to the Research Grants Office submitted via Sapphire, as well as a fully signed application coversheet.

1. The UON deadline for final Cancer Australia application requires the provision of a submission-ready proposal (PdCCRS Questions in PDF format) to

2. The UON deadline for final Cancer Council NSW application requires the provision of a submission-ready proposal (Supplementary Questions in PDF format and Consumer Review Form in word) to

All applicants intending to apply for funding from Cancer Australia (CA) or Cancer Council NSW (CCNSW) must also apply through NHMRC via either the Ideas Grant scheme (CCNSW and CA) or Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies scheme (CA Category A only). In addition a separate application must be made to either CA or CCNSW which must be submitted by the Research Office on your behalf.

Changes in the 2020 round

Criterion and Category Descriptor Changes

Please note that the ‘Feasibility’ criterion has been renamed to ‘Capability’ and the focus reframed as outlined in the 2020 Ideas Grants Category Descriptors.  In addition, the Category Descriptors now include information for Assessors on how to assess the contribution of Associate Investigators.

Application/Grants Held Limits

Limits apply to the number of NHMRC grants that a CI may concurrently hold and/or apply for.

Eligibility to apply for, and hold, an Ideas Grant is linked to numbers of grants applied for or held from the Ideas, Investigator and Synergy Grant schemes, as well as other NHMRC grants held.

CIs may submit a total of two applications across the Investigator, Synergy and Ideas Grant schemes in any given funding round. See specific rules relating to the Investigator and Synergy Grant schemes.

CIs may hold a maximum of two grants concurrently from the Investigator, Synergy and Ideas Grant schemes, with the following exceptions:

  • CIs who hold two Ideas Grants can hold a Synergy Grant, and
  • CIs who hold two Ideas Grants can apply for and hold an Investigator Grant.
  • Investigator Grant holders cannot apply for an Ideas or Investigator Grant, unless they are in the final year of the Investigator Grant at the time of application.

Applicants are strongly recommended to access the comprehensive information on how eligibility for an Ideas Grant is affected by a CI’s grant applications and/or currently held grants by using the NHMRC Eligibility Tool.

It is important to note that if any CI (CIA-CIJ) submits an Investigator, Synergy or Ideas Grant application(s) in excess of the maximum for which they are eligible to apply or hold, all applications on which that CI is named across the Investigator, Synergy or Ideas Grant schemes may be ruled ineligible and excluded from consideration, irrespective of:

  • the scheme
  • the CI’s position or role on the application.

NHMRC Ideas Grants Funding Partners

Ideas Grants may be funded by or in conjunction with other organisations. These grants offer opportunities to researchers whose work is particularly relevant to the priorities and research interests of the partner organisations. Some funding partners may require a separate application to be provided to them, or may have specific criteria and requirements, in addition to NHMRC. Applicants may contact the funding partner to identify any additional requirements.

Current NHMRC Ideas Grant Funding Partners are:

Please refer to the partner websites for information.

Preparing an NHMRC grant

The NHMRC is required to publish Grant Guidelines and all associated scheme documents on GrantConnect, the Australian Government whole-of-government, web-based, grant information system. You will need to sign in or create a User Registration account in GrantConnect to access all relevant documentation for NHMRC applications.

Once you have signed in to GrantConnect, the essential documents can be found by searching for the relevant scheme under ‘grant opportunities’ (open schemes) or ‘forecast opportunities’ (upcoming schemes). As the NHMRC often updates documents after the scheme opens, it is highly recommended that you sign up for alerts by editing your profile.

If you encounter any problems accessing or downloading these documents please contact or 4921 7733.

UON Documents

Please see the NHMRC Submission Procedure on the NHMRC Grants webpage and the Online Booking System User Guide for instructions on how to make a booking for an Eligibility and Compliance Check.

Once complete, the CIA must certify and submit the application in Sapphire via the Certification page. To do this, select the ‘Certification’ page in Sapphire, select ‘Certify and submit to RAO'. This will result in the status changing to 'Submitted to RAO' - which equates to 'Research Administration Office' (NOT the NHMRC).

The Research Office uses an online booking process to manage optional Eligibility and Compliance Checks on applications for NHMRC Schemes. Scientific content is not reviewed. It is recommended that you see Peer Review of your application also either via your faculty or through the UON Academy of Reviewers where available.

A booking must be made within the allocated E&C Check period for each scheme. Applicants are strongly encouraged to commence their application in Sapphire ASAP after the scheme opens so they can book their preferred day for an E&C Check. Bookings without a Sapphire application ID will be cancelled.

Minimum data must be entered in Sapphire by the scheme-specific deadline to allow the NHMRC to find suitable peer reviewers for the application. Applicants must complete the required fields with correct information. Using placeholder text such as “text”, “synopsis” or “xx” etc. is not acceptable as minimum data. Minimum data requirements for each scheme are specified in the scheme Grant Guidelines.

Failure to meet the Minimum Data deadline will result in the application not proceeding.

The NHMRC has developed an eligibility tool to assist researchers in determining their eligibility for funding in the first round of the new grant program.

For further information and to understand how the tool works please see:

If you have further questions about your eligibility, please contact

List of members

Appointed by the DVCRI and nominated by UON Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellors, the UON Academy of Reviewers is a select and esteemed group of highly experienced researchers who will act as a reference group for the Research and Innovation Division providing comment on strategic matters as they arise.

A key strategic role for members of the Academy will be the review of draft UON grant applications in the major grant rounds, to provide tactical feedback and advice to applicants.


The UON Academy of reviewers will be providing reviews for the following schemes:

SchemeScheme Opens EOI  Deadline Deadline for Draft Applications Seeking Academy Review* Funding Body Closing Date
ARC Discovery ProjectsWed 11 November 2020Thurs 26 November 2020Wed 13 January 2021Wed 24 February 2021
ARC Discovery IndigenousWed 25 November 2020Thurs 3 December 2020Wed 3 February 2021Wed 17 March 2021
NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort StudiesWed 4 March 2020Mon 28 September 2020Wed 21 October 2020Wed 25 November 2020
NHMRC Investigator GrantsWed 3 February 2021Thur 21 January 2021Wed 17 February 202131 Wed March 2021
NHMRC Ideas GrantsWed 10 March 2021Fri 26 February 2021Wed 24 March 20021Wed 5 May 2021

Research Services wishes to advise that an internal Expression of Interest (EOI) process will be used to facilitate this valuable scientific content review.

If you would like your draft application reviewed, please complete the UON Academy of Reviewers EOI Form (DOC) and submit to Research Services via by 5:00pm on the appropriate deadline listed above.

*Please note that due to the time constraints of the Academy members whom will also be writing and mentoring their own grants submissions, it is required that applications for review will be sent to the Research Grants team 6 weeks before the Funding Body deadline with the expectation that the review will be returned to the application no later than 2 weeks before the Funding Body deadline.

List of Members

Professor Daniel Nyberg Business and Law
Professor Allyson Holbrook Education and Arts
Professor Lyndall Ryan Education and Arts
Professor Victoria HaskinsEducation and Arts
Professor Andrew Fleming Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Behdad Moghtaderi Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Geoffrey Evans Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Graeme Murch Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Mark Jones Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Minyue Fu Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Rick Middleton Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Rob Melchers Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Shin-Chan Han Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Sue Anne Ware Engineering and Built Environment
Emeritus Professor Terry Wall Engineering and Built Environment
Professor Alan Brichta Health and Medicine
Professor Amanda Baker Health and Medicine
Professor Billie Bonevski Health and Medicine
A/Professor Christopher WilliamsHealth and Medicine
Professor Clare Collins Health and Medicine
Professor Geoff Isbister Health and Medicine
Professor Jodie Simpson Health and Medicine
Professor Jennifer Martin Health and Medicine
Professor Joerg Mattes Health and Medicine
Laureate Professor John Attia Health and Medicine
Professor Jon Hirst Health and Medicine
Professor Julie Byles Health and Medicine
Professor Lisa Wood Health and Medicine
Laureate Professor Paul Foster Health and Medicine
Laureate Professor Rob Sanson-Fisher Health and Medicine
Laureate Professor Rodney Scott Health and Medicine
Laureate Professor Roger Smith Health and Medicine
A/Professor Susan HuaHealth and Medicine
Professor Vanessa McDonald Health and Medicine
Professor Adam McCluskey Science
Professor Jenny Bowman Science
Professor Frini Karayanidis Science
A/Professor Greg Hancock Science
Professor Peter Greer Science
Professor Scott Brown Science
Professor Yong-Ling Ruan Science
Laureate Professor George WillisScience

From February 2020, the NHMRC is using its new grants management system, Sapphire for all grant rounds. The first grant round to open in Sapphire was the Synergy Grants 2020 round on 26 February 2020.

Resources are available to assist in navigating Sapphire, such as how-to videos and access to the Sapphire Help Centre. The NHMRC will update Sapphire’s web page with latest news and other relevant information. Applicants are encouraged to check back regularly to keep informed of any updates.

NHMRC copied RGMS users’ CV/Profile data from RGMS for migration into Sapphire on 12 February 2020. Any changes made to an RGMS profile after this date have not been replicated in Sapphire. Researchers should confirm all Profile data is complete and up-to-date prior to submitting an application.

A summary of the key changes for Sapphire Profile and NHMRC’s recommendations for checking your profile data is available on the NHMRC Sapphire - Profile Update webpage. If you have any questions or concerns about your migrated profile data, please contact the Sapphire Help Desk.

CI Eligibility Limits and Sapphire

Unlike RGMS, Sapphire does not contain the functionality to perform validations checks to alert the applicant or the Research Office to potential eligibility issues. Instead it relies on each CI to ensure they are not exceeding the eligibility requirements for the scheme.

The Research Office strongly recommends that CIAs ensure that their entire CI team carefully check to ensure they meet the eligibility requirement for the specific scheme – noting that for some schemes eligibility is limited to one application as CI.

The NHMRC will rule all applications ineligible in instances where any CI (CIA-CIJ) is in excess of the maximum number of grants they are eligible to apply for or hold.

The NHMRC has released a Toolkit for Consumer and Community Involvement in Health and Medical Research to ‘provide practical advice on engaging with consumers and the community to undertake high quality and relevant research’.

The Toolkit comprises of five individual resources available for download from the Consumer and community engagement page.

The Toolkit has been designed by the NHMRC and its Community and Consumer Advisory Group to complement the 2016 Statement on Consumer and Community Involvement in Health and Medical Research

Impact Case Studies

The assessment criteria for some NHMRC schemes now include research impact wherein applicants are required to demonstrate the impact of a project or program of research.

Applicants will be assessed based on:

  • The significance and reach of their claimed research impact
  • The contribution of their research program to the research impact

NHMRC defines the impact of research as the verifiable outcomes that research makes to knowledge, health, the economy and/or society. Impact is the effect of the research after it has been adopted, adapted for use, or used to inform further research. Research impact is the verifiable outcomes from research and not the prospective or anticipated effects of the research. Research impact also includes research that leads to a decision not to use a particular diagnostic, treatment or health policy.

Engagement and Impact Toolkit

Research Services has developed an Engagement and Impact Toolkit which helps to provide:

  • a comprehensive overview of how research engagement and impact is increasingly influencing researcher practice, institutional strategies and practices as well as research funding;
  • strategies to support research impact at the institutional, faculty and individual level;
  • resources to support data capture and effectively communicate research impact.

A series of tiles on the EI Toolkit homepage link visitors to information and resources across major themes including An introduction to the EI Toolkit, Resources, ARC Engagement and Impact assessment, Promoting your research impact and Collecting EI data.

Citation metrics

One aspect of impact evidence is represented by the recognition of scholarly research outputs. Citation metrics are a significant part of this evidence. Please see the UON Library Guides for a more detailed breakdown of this aspect of research impact.

Research Services can provide researchers with access to view successful applications where the lead Chief Investigator has provided consent. Applications must be viewed in hard copy in the Research Services office or by arrangement at HMRI.

How to Arrange to View a Successful Application

Contact to request access to view successful applications for a specific scheme. Please include preferred date(s), time(s) and location.

Confirmation of the date, time and venue will be provided to you by Research Services staff.


Please note a staff/student login is required to access presentation resources

For NHMRC applications involving Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) patients, sites and/or HNELHD Chief or Associate Investigator(s) it is important to ensure that the appropriate HNELHD manager(s)/Executive Director approval has been obtained prior to the UON internal deadline.

The HNELHD process for approval requires the completion of the HNELHD Brief Approval Template signed by the appropriate HNELHD manager(s)/Executive Director. HNELHD recommend that applicants commence this process as soon as possible to ensure approvals are obtained prior to the UON internal deadline.

Please contact the HNELHD Research office if you have any questions relating to their processes or research involving HNELHD patients or sites.

Please note that applicants who are proposing to access HNELHD patients or sites but who do not have a formal affiliation with HNELHD, will need to ensure the application team includes a HNELHD investigator in accordance with HNELHD requirements.