Australia is hoping to attract top researchers from around the world with the offer of highly competitive fellowships.
Launching the scheme in Canberra on Tuesday, federal education minister David Kemp said 125 fellowships would be awarded over the next five years. Each recipient will receive a salary of A$225,000 (£67,000) a year for five years, totalling A$1.125 million.
Dr Kemp said the scheme was part of the government's $2.9 billion innovation action plan announced in January by prime minister John Howard.
He said the fellowships were comparable to Canadian research chairs, which carry an annual salary of C$200,000 (£88,500) and the German Wolfgang Paul fellowships, which provide a salary of DM128,000 (£80,000).
"The fellowships are designed to attract and retain in key positions in Australia researchers of the highest international standing," Dr Kemp said.
While preference would be given to Australian citizens, he said up to five of the fellowships each year could be awarded to researchers from overseas.
The successful fellows must be based at an Australian university or research organisation primarily funded by federal or state government. The host institution must match by at least dollar-for-dollar the fellow's salary.
"Federation fellows will be expected to make an outstanding contribution to Australian research and to establish strong links with industry," Dr Kemp said. "(These) fellowships provide major financial and professional incentives for researchers to return to or remain in Australia."
The closing date for applications is June 22 2001, and winners should be announced in September.
Details of the guidelines and application rules are at www.arc.gov.au .