UNSW Canberra aspires to excel in research in general and also to be the top specialist institution in Defence-related research, recognising that the quality of undergraduate programs is directly underpinned by research excellence. UNSW Canberra has  an excellent international reputation based on outstanding research initiatives and teaching efforts  conducted across all four  schools: Business (BUS); Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS); Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences (PEMS); and Engineering and Information Technology (SEIT).  There is a well-developed research culture at UNSW Canberra with over 90% of staff being research active; also research outputs have reached a record number with more than 700 publications for 2014.

UNSW Canberra actively pursues strategies to promote collaboration across schools, other faculties of UNSW and a range of national and international universities, research organizations and industry

Amongst the outstanding achievements are the awards of  prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships, ARC Discovery Indigenous grants, ARC Discovery Projects, the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowships, a Laureate Fellowship, Young Tall Poppy Awards, the UNSW Innovation Awards and the Australian Museum Eureka Prize.