GRDC Research Scholarship

A GRDC Research Scholarship (GRS) supports PhD candidates to deliver innovative research solutions to address constraints or opportunities for Australian grain growers to help improve their farm business sustainability and profitability.

We also invest in developing researcher capacity and ability to ensure we have continued access to researchers with the skills and expertise to deliver world class grains R&D for Australian grain growers.

The GRS will provide high-achieving students with opportunities for professional development and greater industry engagement in addition to financial support.

Key dates

Monday 16 August 2021 - Applications open

Thursday 30 September - 5pm AEST applications close

Mid-November - Planned notification to applicants of provisonary 2022 outcome.


Enquiries are to be submitted via email. Questions will be de-identified and both questions and responses from GRDC will be uploaded to the webpage to benefit all applicants.

Attention: Mark Waterhouse



All applications must be submitted via the GRDC Grains Investment Portal by 5pm AEST, Thursday 30 September 2021.

GRDC is seeking strategically aligned, innovative research.

When responding to the Evaluation Criteria keep in mind GRDC’s purpose is to invest in RD&E to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

We will be looking for applicants who can address the criteria and demonstrate their ability to contribute to this purpose through their research. As with all GRDC investments, we will consider any risks in awarding a GRS, for example whether the applicant has access to suitable infrastructure, technologies, materials and a supervisor that will enable them to successfully complete their PhD.

If you are interested in finding out more about our current RD&E investments, a list of these can be found on our website, or our Grains Investment Portal under Project Summaries. You can also read about the latest grains RD&E in GroundCover.

The Grains Investment Portal Application form has predetermined fields and character limits. Referee reports and academic record are accepted supporting documentation to the application, any other attachments will not be accepted nor considered.


  • The application must be completed by the student (not the supervisor)
  • The institution must endorse the application
  • The contract will be between the GRDC and the institution
  • It is anticipated that the contract will start in line with the first semester of study
  • International students may apply but must be supported by an Australian institution.

Key documents

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must fulfil these conditions to be eligible to apply for the scholarships.

  1. The applicant must be admitted into full time post-graduate study.
  2. The applicant must not be more than a third of the way through their PhD.
  3. The applicant must submit at least two referee reports on the GRDC template, including from the proposed principal supervisor. If your referee would prefer to submit their report directly to GRDC, please email for further instructions.
  4. The applicant must be awarded a Research Training Programs (RTP) scholarship or equivalent. International students must be awarded a university tuition fee waiver and living allowance.

Applicants must show proof of scholarship. If outcome of RTP applicant or equivalent is unknown at the time of your GRS application, success in receiving a GRDC will be dependent on the student confirming they have been awarded an RTP or equivalent prior to contracting.

Evaluation criteria

These are the items against which applications will be evaluated. Each criterion is scored and used to do an initial ranking of applications.

NumberEvaluation criteria

Technical - The extent to which the application meets the Technical Requirements.


Proposed research topic - In 500 words or less, describe the research project that would be undertaken if this application was successful. We strongly urge all applicants to consider our identified priority areas of research and targeted outcomes.


Industry impact - In 300 words or less, demonstrate how your PhD will impact the Australian grains industry and contribute to grower profitability. For example, define the path to market, or how the research outputs will be taken up to progress research or technology.

1cStudent academic record and research ability - Attach a copy of your most recent academic record. In 250 words or less explain why you believe you have the potential to be a successful GRS candidate.

Risk - Risks inherent in the application including the degree of compliance with the Draft Contract and any actual or perceived conflict of interest (unweighted). The applicant’s degree of access to their supervisor, infrastructure, technologies, materials etc to enable the candidate to acquire the skills and knowledge to successfully complete their PhD, including contingencies should restrictions impact ability to access any of the above.

Scholarship value

The GRS is a top up scholarship worth $20,000/annum for a maximum of 3 years.

 Year 1Year 2Year 3
Travel up to-$5,000-

As illustrated above, scholars will also receive:

  • $10,000 per annum to cover operating costs.
  • Up to $5,000 for travel to attend conferences, workshops or skills development which will be paid in a lump sum in the second year (this is separate to the travel expenses associated with the GRS Symposium).


Scholars are expected to submit Milestone Reports as discussed with GRDC and clarified in the contract.  This may include:

  1. A critical literature review on the topic of research within three (3) months of contracting
  2. A comprehensive research plan (including communication and grower engagement plan) within 2 months of contracting
  3. At least one conference/journal paper per year from the second year onwards
  4. An electronic copy of the thesis submitted to the institution for examination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. I am an overseas student studying at an Australian University. Am I eligible to apply?

A1. Yes, as long as you have been awarded a university tuition fee waiver and living allowance.

Q2. I am due to finish a bachelor’s degree in science, agriculture or a relevant discipline at an Australian University at the end of this year. Am I eligible to apply?

A2. Yes, candidates in their final year of a degree are eligible to apply for a GRS. If successful, it will be provisional on receipt of their transcript demonstrating academic excellence.

Q3. I did not achieve a 1st Class or upper 2nd Class honours, am I eligible to apply for GRS?

A3. Yes, but only if you are awarded a tuition waiver and living allowance equivalent to an RTP scholarship.

Q4. As a supervisor am I eligible to apply for any of the scholarships in anticipation of attracting a student later?

A4. No, the application must be submitted by the student themselves.

Q5. What awards are considered equivalents of Research Training Program award?

A5. Any competitive scholarships from the university, research organisations or any other entity within Australia. This scholarship should cover tuition and stipend equivalent to an RTP scholarship.

Q6. Can I get an extension if I am unable to submit my application by the due date?

A6. No. An extension of the closing date will not be granted under any circumstances.

Q7. Can I submit more than one application?

A7. No, only one application is allowed per applicant.

Q8. What is covered under the travel/ training amount?

A8. The travel and training budget can be used for travelling to conferences, including overseas conferences, attending workshops relevant to your studies, and undertaking skill development such as statistics and biometrics courses, bioinformatics training.

2021 Questions and answers

Q1. Can you please advise what crops are covered under GRDC scholarships? I am a PhD student studying rice and it meets the 1b evaluation criteria.

A1. Rice is not one of GRDC’s 25 leviable crops and a PhD studying rice would not demonstrate value for our levy payers, nor adequately address our priority areas of research and target outcomes.

Q2: I'm a PhD student conducting research into some potential solutions to mouse damage to wheat and other crops. I already hold a scholarship and know that I can't hold two primary scholarships at once. Is the GRDC Research Scholarship solely a primary scholarship, or are there options for top-up scholarships?

A2: 2022 GRDC Research Scholarships (GRS) are awarded pending confirmation of an applicant’s Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or equivalent. As per the conditions of an RTP, recipients cannot receive another scholarship valued greater than 75% of the RTP, in 2022 this would be equal to $21,640 stipend. In 2022, a GRS provides up to $20,000 stipend, $10,000 operating/annum. Therefore, if you already have a scholarship and RTP, it is highly likely you will breach the conditions of your RTP if your application is successful and you accept a GRS. If receiving an RTP equivalent, you should confirm the conditions of this scholarship before applying for a GRS.

Q3: I have applied for a RTP scholarship and I am wondering what documents are acceptable as proof of scholarship for my application?

A3: Please attach an official letter of offer or other formal documentation, if available, before submitting your GRS application. If you do not know the outcome of your RTP or equivalent, simply say you have applied, and when the outcome of your application is expected. GRDC will confirm RTP status before offering a GRS to successful applicants if documentation hasn’t been provided at the application stage.

Q4: I am interested in GRDC’s funding of slightly more blue-sky research. I have begun development of a genetic engineering tool that would allow easy multi-gene knockout studies to be completed on the 25 leviable crops you cover, as well as important microbes (like nitrogen fixing rhizobia). With further development we hope to be able to introduce completely new gene pathways, involving acid/salt tolerances, water minimisation etc. While this tool may not directly benefit growers as-is, it would be a huge boon to other crop researchers. Do you need to show that it is immediately applicable to grain growers?

A4: Thank you for the great question. GRDC manages a balanced portfolio including both higher risk blue-sky research, and traditional research delivering incremental gains for growers. We welcome applications from those who are thinking differently about problems or opportunities for the grains industry to lead innovation and remain competitive internationally. Applicants should make a connection between their research, and the potential impact on growers’ farm business sustainability and profitability (Criteria 1b). However, this does not need to be immediate nor do the outputs of the research need to be delivered directly to growers. The next users of your research could be growers, plant breeders, statisticians, engineers, data analysts et al who then use the outputs to develop varieties, technologies, tools, or practices that benefit grain growers. Successful applications will demonstrate the value to grain growers for their investment in the research (and student).

Q5: How detailed should be the methodology part and how many characters approximately?

A5: Please refer to the 2022 Guide for submitting a GRS application. All critical information should be included in your response to the evaluation criteria. We will request more information if needed during evaluation.

Q6: There are some differences between the guide and application portal, and I am unsure what is required of the Risk management section. The guide asks to specify the degree of access the applicant has to their supervisor, infrastructure etc, and any contingencies should this be restricted. While the application appears to want much more detailed information and the implementation of a risk assessment matrix. What level of detail is required for this initial application?

A6: The risk assessment advice in the guide is not contrary to what is requested in the portal. The portal is simply a more structured way to identify and consider risks. Before investing in a PhD student and their research GRDC needs to assess the impact of any risks and the effectiveness of controls in place to manage these.

A very basic example: for access to supervisor the applicant may identify this as a HR risk. If there are government restrictions that don’t allow face to face engagement, what would this mean for the PhD study/applicant? What controls does the university, student or supervisor have in place to mitigate the impact e.g. video conferencing opportunities.

For GRS applications we do expect risks to be identified but are not expecting extensive risk assessments, we will request more information if needed.

Q7: I am unsure about the Contract Compliance Statement as this was not specified in the guide, is this not relevant yet as no formal contract has been signed?

A7: Regarding the Contract Compliance Statement: the contract is between the research institution (not the applicant) and GRDC. The applicant should ensure their research institution has the contract and is considering the T&Cs. Ideally, any concerns or issues with these are then provided to the applicant to raise in the contract compliance section. This supports a more open and smooth contract negotiation/execution process with less delays.

If the applicant has not made efforts to ensure contract compliance prior to submitting the application and does not enter any issues at this stage it will not significantly impact the initial evaluation process, but may impact contracting arrangements if the application is successful. It is highly unlikely GRDC and a research institution cannot come to an agreement on changes for scholarship contracts, but it is good practice to ensure your institution has an opportunity to raise concerns at the application stage.