What are the research strengths of your university?

Posted November 12, 2018

  • Business
SGS Economics and Planning University Dashboard

Our new ERA Rating interactive dashboard helps universities identify their research strengths, paving the way to finding credible industry partners and developing successful innovation precincts.

Successful economic development policies build on existing industry strengths and leverage existing local capabilities. The Australian Government’s recently released Statement of Principles for Australian Innovation Precincts identifies that “Precincts should build on local strengths and resources, and pursue real market opportunities and innovation potential as identified by credible industry partners” (Principle 1B).

Successful university-led innovation precincts have built on the competitive advantages of the university, particularly its research strengths. In our recent article - Universities and their approach to innovation precincts – we highlighted that to successfully develop an innovation precinct, universities need to clearly identify what they are excellent at (i.e. their research strengths).

Our interactive dashboard helps universities identify their research strengths using the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) data published by the Australian Research Council. The ERA report provides ratings for each Australian university by detailed research areas. These ratings are based on indicators of research quality, activity, application and recognition (1). There are five ratings:

5: Well above world standard

4: Above world standard

3: At world standard

2: Below world standard

1: Well below world standard

The dashboard provides a useful resource for tertiary institutions, regional and local economic development stakeholders, and state and local investment attraction agencies.

Using the dashboard

The dashboard can be filtered by:

  1. Institution: research data is provided for 39 universities across Australia.
  2. Year: three ERA reports have been issued; 2010, 2012 and 2015. The fourth round of ERA is underway.
  3. Research category: these are two-digit classifications based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC). There are 22 research categories.
  4. ERA rating: if the university has a 5 or a 4 in any particular area then this is likely to be a strength.

Examples of what you can see

Some examples of what can be viewed through the dashboard:

What are the research strengths of UNSW?

In 2015, UNSW scored well above average (ERA rating of 5) for 36 Fields of Research (four digit categories) including Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Medical Biochemistry and Metabolomics and Neurosciences.

How have these strengths changed over time?

In 2010, UNSW scored well above average (ERA rating of 5) for 18 Fields of Research. This demonstrates that since 2010, UNSW’s research strengths have doubled. While UNSW has a number of new research strengths, it is also important to recognise that some Fields of Research no longer have a rating of 5.

Which Australian universities have research strengths in biological science?

In 2015, four Australian universities were ranked well above average (ERA rating of 5) for Biological Sciences (two digit Category of Research):

  • Australian National University
  • La Trobe University
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Western Australia

Which Australian universities have research strengths in engineering?

In 2015, four Australian universities were ranked well above average (ERA rating of 5) for Engineering (two digit Category of Research):

  • Monash University
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Queensland
  • University of South Australia


  • Field of Research ratings provide an indication of research strengths. The four-digit ratings provide a greater indication of the specific research areas which are a strength of each institution and are likely to be more relevant to existing and potential industry targets.
  • Each university has a unique set of research strengths. Research rankings vary greatly across each of the universities.
  • Research strengths change over time. The changes in ratings over time are potentially an indicator of investment in a particular research faculty or institute within the university.
  • Identified research strengths are clear pointers for targeting relationship development. Universities should be looking at attracting tenants which are aligned with their research strengths. We have undertaken many studies for universities across Australia which focus on identifying the research strengths of a university and using these as a basis for an innovation precinct.

(1) Australian Research Council 2015, Excellence in Research Australia

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Andrew McDougall

Principal & Partner

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