Ford Foundation commits $1bn to mission-related investments
06 Apr 17
The Ford Foundation has announced a new approach to funding, separate from its existing grant programme, which will seek both financial returns and social and environmental benefits. Annabel Slater reports...
Finding Indigenous culture worldwide with Endeavour
27 Apr 17
While studying for her PhD, Emma Lee became the first Tasmanian Indigenous recipient of the Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians. She tells Annabel Slater how the award opened up the scope of her research...
Australia makes progress in advanced manufacturing
04 May 17
Universities looking to commercialise their research can gain ideas and insight from Intellectual Property Australia’s detailed analysis of Australian patent applications...
Ford Foundation commits $1bn to mission-related investments
The Ford Foundation has announced that it will channel up to $1 billion (1.3bn Australian dollars) over the next 10 years into philanthropic mission-related investments. The foundation hopes to “achieve attractive financial returns while also contributing to meaningful social progress”. The MRIs are intended to enable collaboration between the foundation and its partners in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
The funding will be separate from the foundation’s existing grants programme, and will not reduce the amount of money available for grants.
Past and present
The Ford Foundation has a yearly grants budget of between $500 million and $550m. This money comes from the foundation’s 5 per cent payout of its total assets each year, as required by United States tax law.
But the MRIs are separate from the foundation’s yearly grants budget, and will seek to draw higher financial returns. The Ford Foundation says that these will follow in the footsteps of similar initiatives by other foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“If philanthropy’s last half-century was about optimising the five per cent, its next half-century will be about beginning to harness the 95 per cent as well, carefully and creatively,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.
From the yearly grants budget, the foundation has directed more than $670m to programme-directed investments (PDI). These are charitable investments through loans, guarantees or equities. PDIs are used for supporting social and community development institutions that work in housing, access to markets, job creation, and arts and culture.
Unlike grants, PDIs are expected to be repaid and to deliver financial return. The return can fall below competitive market rates, and can also be applied under higher levels of risk compared with conventional investments.
A different approach
Last year, the Obama administration established “impact investing”, clarifying that foundations can invest in mission-related businesses that further charitable goals without losing their tax-exempt status. The aim was to encourage collaboration between government and private investors in projects to generate both economic value and measurable social and environmental benefits.
This means that the Ford Foundation’s MRIs will need to prove they can provide desirable financial and social returns. These returns can be monitored using social impact tools created by institutions such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, the Global Impact Investing Network, the Global Impact Investing Ratings System, and the Mission Investors Exchange. Additionally, the foundation says that its financial and impact performance will be made more transparent.
The foundation says that the focus for MRIs in the US will be on more affordable housing. In developing countries, the foundation plans to look at expanding access to financial services for low-income communities. Inclusion and diversity will also get a special emphasis, the foundation says. This will encompass the diversity of investment teams as well as the areas in which they invest. It also includes the foundation’s values, which it says is “a powerful contributor to performance impact”.
The next great challenge
However, the foundation also says it recognises that $1bn of philanthropic assets “not nearly enough to grow and prove this space”, saying that liabilities and risks from such investments—from consequences of inequality, including environmental degradation, diseases, lack of housing, unemployment, racism and gender inequality—can range into trillions of dollars.
“With the gap so wide and the stakes so high, we cannot afford to leave any option unexplored,” said Walker. He said that he hoped to see more foundations using their endowments in this manner in the future, ranging from pension funds and university endowments to sovereign wealth funds. He said he hoped that everyone would be able to participate in impact investments to produce sustainable financial returns, as well as social returns, in the next decade.
“This is the next great challenge in philanthropy,” Walker said. “To find and finance more social good than we ever have before.”
The Ford Foundation’s vice-president for economic opportunity and markets, Xavier de Souza Briggs, will be discussing the foundation’s commitment to MRIs in a Facebook live chat on April 12, 2017 at 12.30 pm Eastern Time. Participants are invited to submit questions in the comment section here until 11 April.
Finding Indigenous culture worldwide with Endeavour
While studying for her PhD, Emma Lee became the first Tasmanian Indigenous recipient of the Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians. She tells Annabel Slater how the award opened up the scope of her research.
Emma Lee is a research fellow at the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania, where she investigates barriers and opportunities for Indigenous people to enter into commercial fisheries.
As a trawlwulwuy woman from tebrakunna country, Tasmania, Lee’s heritage is tied to her research. She describes her research career as being powered by a sense of public responsibility as well as pride for both Indigenous and other communities she has worked with. Previously Lee travelled around Australia as an archaeologist and land manager, before beginning a PhD in joint management of protected areas at the University of Tasmania.
“To be able to share the joy of Aboriginal culture any which way I can, such as through mining cultural heritage, it’s just led onto this wonderful research career in which I have been able to extend those opportunities through a much more collegial fashion,” says Lee.
Lessons from abroad
During her PhD, Lee was able to travel to the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Spain’s Basque Country on a visiting scholarship in 2015, where she shared her experience as a guest lecturer. Observing the integration of local Basque culture and fisheries inspired her to think how Indigenous culture and food tourism could be integrated back in Tasmania.
“I thought how the Basque country with their traditional fisheries and their excellence in food tourism would be a perfect proving ground to help develop the characterisation of Tasmanian Indigenous fisheries. Because at present, there’s no policy and there’s no research and no understanding about how we can add to the overall regional economy.”
Back at the University of Tasmania, the Indigenous engagement officer recommended that she should apply for an Endeavour Research Fellowship to continue her international study. Lee acknowledges that she was initially taken aback.
“I was just so surprised that someone would have that belief in me, but someone who knew her job and how to support Indigenous people, being Indigenous herself, was just a stunning moment of having policy work to serve our mainstream, our experiences, and also capitalising on the advantages.”
The Australia Awards Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships are competitive, merit-based awards originally established in 2003 by the Australian government to both attract international researchers and send native researchers worldwide. After working on her application for three months, Lee became the first Tasmanian Indigenous recipient of an Endeavour Research Fellowship, which she used to return to the Basque country in 2016 and continue her research into local fisheries.
Lee describes herself as “the most fortunate and humble recipient of an Endeavour award Indigenous fellowship. To be awarded by the Australian government to look at these wonderful new ways of understanding culture and people and communities and countries, and to do that through a higher education means, it’s just been one of the most incredible privileges of my life, to intellectually, emotionally and culturally expand my own range of responses.”
Make your words float
Lee says as a researcher she generally applied for two to three different awards or scholarships a year, and she worked on the Endeavour application for three months. “I think you need to keep practising and adding and tailoring and making that application just float off the page with an ease of reading. And that takes practice and work, but I don’t think it’s an onerous task, I think it’s just part of the planned maintenance of being a future career researcher.”
“When you think about people and the amount of applications that they get, you really must spend time crafting something that brings people along with the joy and curiosity that you’re feeling at the time of application. Because if you don’t have a curiosity about the world then putting yourself outside your comfort zone may not be the right condition setting for you.”
Endeavour awards have a country-specific focus, yet researchers have a wide range of potential destinations. Lee recommends that you not only research countries but also the institutions where research can be carried out, and to make contacts as early as possible.
“Its very important to not only have the country but also the institutions in focus, and to send a few emails out before the applications open, just to get a sense of where your research may be placed, and who can supervise that, and how you may value-add during that time, to maximise every opportunity out of that experience. So that’s the absolutely critical, tangible advice that I can give, do it and do it now before the applications open.”
Be bold with your vision
Once won, the fellowship requires researchers to create a rigorous plan of research action. But Lee says it is up to each researcher to build an ambitious vision. “The project is as good as your vision, your desire to learn and your curiosity about the world, you just need to tailor that to what you think is achievable in the timeframe, what you can manage to do, and how that is going to benefit you in the long-term research planning of your research career.”
“You’re just a person who is fortunate enough to stand among so many others. There’s a sense of humility in engaging with this level of award that it actually makes you think more broadly about the communities you live in and the power of one to make a change. That thematic crafted my application, that the experience that you get out of the Endeavour award will pay off for years to come, and so to think of this as an investment in your own future, and be bold with your vision. And particularly, Indigenous regional women—be bold.”
CV: Emma Lee
2017 Research Fellow, Centre of Marine Socioecology, Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania
2015 Endeavour Research Fellowship for Indigenous Australians
2015 Visiting scholarship, International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Basque Country, Spain
2015 Commenced PhD in joint management of protected areas, University of Tasmania
1996 BA in prehistory and biological anthropology, Australian National University
Lee’s research interests are concerned with expanding the canon of land rights into sea country and advocating for greater benefit-sharing of fishery resources.
For the previous two decades, Lee worked in land management, caring for country as an archaeologist, policymaker and joint management expert.
Australia makes progress in advanced manufacturingUniversities looking to commercialise their research can gain ideas and insight from Intellectual Property Australia’s detailed analysis of Australian patent applications.
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Government agency Intellectual Property Australia has conducted an overview of the country’s innovation system through a review of patent applications made between 2000 and 2013.
The report focused on applications in advanced manufacturing, which include the production of highly specialised products and processes. This area has been identified as a critical part of Australia’s economy. The report excluded food manufacturing, energy generation and digital technology.
From a total of 22,265 patent applications, the report found the highest number of patent applications in electrical, mechanical engineering, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, respectively. This reflects global trends, yet Australia also had a strong presence in chemical engineering, which generated the fifth largest number of patents in the time period. The report attributed this to Australia’s strength in mining technologies. Globally, chemical engineering comes eighth.
The report also analysed Australia’s technological specialisations in eight industries and compared them with industries in other countries. Australia's strengths were medical devices (10th globally), chemical engineering (13th), and transport (15th), the report found.
Research organisations, including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), universities and medical research institutes made the most number of applications in six of the eight technology industries. However, small and medium-sized businesses made the highest number of applications in mechanical engineering and transport.
What was patented?
In chemical engineering, process engineering, waste treatment, and metal casting were prominent areas. Top applicants included CSIRO, BlueScope Steel, IHI Corp, Siemens Group, Nucor Corp and Orica.
Electrical applications included communication technologies, controlling and testing, and data processing. Top applicants included CSIRO and Cochlear Group. Aristocrat Technologies, an Australian business that develops gaming machines and casino management systems, accounted for the majority of patents for registration and checking devices.
Mechanical engineering patents covered primarily construction, followed by mining, engines, pumps and turbines, and agricultural machinery. CSIRO was the top applicant.
The main focus in pharmaceuticals was methods of treatment (therapeutic activity). Top company applicants included CSL, Agriculture Victoria Services, Glycom AS and Medvet Science.
Medical devices included diagnostic instruments, syringes and catheters, and prostheses. Top applicants were ResMed, who make respiratory devices, and Cochlear Group, who specialise in implantable hearing solutions.
Transport applications looked at transport modes, components, and infrastructure. Top applicant was Orbital Australia, with a focus on vehicle components and engine innovation.
Major corporate applicants included medical technology companies Cochlear—which was also prominent in the electrical sector—and ResMed. ResMed, an international enterprise with origins in Australia, was the only international to feature among the top corporations.
Other corporate applicants included BlueScope Steel, which was prominent in materials and chemical engineering, and Rio Tinto, which was prominent in chemical and mechanical engineering.
All in all, corporate applicants accounted for 10 of the top 15 Australian advanced manufacturing applicants and were prominent in six technology areas.
CSIRO was the largest collaborator and featured in 177 collaborative applications. The University of Melbourne was the next largest collaboration, with 80 such applications.
Research organisations showed the highest level of collaboration in six of the eight industries.
Pharmaceuticals showed the highest rate of collaboration—15 per cent of applications were collaborations. These were mainly among research institutions, and between research institutions and international entities.
Electrical and medical devices showed among the lowest levels of collaboration in the sectors.
As for international partners, the United States featured frequently in the top sectors— electrical (US, UK, Japan), mechanical engineering (US, UK, China), pharmaceuticals (US, UK, Denmark), and medical devices (US, UK, Denmark). The US was also the preferred collaborator in transport.
The global perspective
Globally, Australia ranked 14th in patent applications. This is a positive view as Australia ranks 53rd in terms of population. However, there was a steep growth in applications globally, compared with a 15 per cent increase in Australia over the 13-year time period studied. Therefore, proportionally each of the individual Australian technology industries grew much less than their global counterpart.
- See more at: https://www.researchprofessional.com/0/rr/funding/insight/2017/5/Australia-progresses-in-advanced-manufacturing.html#sthash.9TfSOdc0.dpuf
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