The European Union (EU) and Australia established diplomatic relations in 1952 which have grown over the years to many areas from a predominantly economic partnership to a politically strategic one. In April 2017 the EU and Australia ended preparatory work for potential trade negotiations and the European Commission has recommended the launch of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). On 7 August 2017 the leaders of the EU and Australia signed a 'Framework Agreement' which provides the legal framework for cooperation and will encourage closer links between leaders across government, business and civil society.
Australia is an important, like-minded partner for the EU in the area of research and innovation co-operation. Australia and the EU have a long history of productive research collaboration, underpinned by the first treaty-level science and technology agreement signed by the EU with an industrialised country in 1994.
Australia has more collaboration with the European Union than any single country in the world, averaging over 13,000 co-publications per year over the period 2011-15. Australia was the European Union’s fifth highest non-EU collaborator over the same period.
The bi-annual Australia-EU Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) meetings are the principal mechanism for setting bilateral Australia-EU research collaboration priorities and monitoring cooperation. The last JSTCC was held in Brussels on 28 October 2016 with the next joint meeting planned for 2018 in Australia.
The 2016 meeting covered discussions on cooperation framework conditions and thematic priorities, including reinforced collaboration in the areas of historically strong mutual engagement (research infrastructure, health, bio-economy and earth and marine observations), while fostering stronger links in other fields (e.g. environment).
An Australian Counsellor (Industry, Innovation and Science) is based at the Australian Embassy and Mission to the European Union and NATO in Brussels, as part of the overseas network of the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS). The role of the Counsellor is to support the department’s key strategic international engagement objectives for industry, resources, science and innovation in Europe. The Counsellor is also the National Contact Point (NCP) for Australia.
Under the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) Australia adopted a 'Global Innovation Strategy' (GIS) which provides an overarching framework to guide Australia’s international industry, innovation and science collaboration. The strategy leverages and builds on existing government initiatives to enhance whole-of-government global engagement; build business–research collaboration; draw talent and investment into Australia; increase links to global value chains; and facilitate an innovative, open marketplace for Australian businesses and researchers in the Asia–Pacific. The EU and its member states are identified as priority economies for collaboration. All EU member states are eligible to apply with an Australian partner for the Global Innovation Linkages programme and the Global Connections Fund under the GIS.
European researchers are able to apply to a range of competitive programs through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). International researchers can be included on the NHMRC’s research grants; as lead investigators where appropriate works visas are in place.
In addition, opportunities are available for European and Australian researchers to collaborate in the EU Framework Programmes in the health and medical areas through the co-funding NHMRC-European Union Collaborative Research Grants program, and also through NHMRC’s EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research program.
The ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP) supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied research and research training through national competition and is open to international researchers, provided applications are made through an eligible Australian institution.
Additionally there are many areas of cooperation between Australia and the EU through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and with other government research organisations.
Research cooperation between Europe and Australia under the EU Research Framework Programmes has steadily increased over the years.
With the release of the Horizon 2020 work programme for 2018-2020, Australia is considering further potential areas of collaboration aligned with its domestic science and innovation priorities.
Funded under the Horizon 2020 work programme, the MESOPP project aims to enhance research and innovation cooperation between Europe and Australia by developing research e-infrastructures (standardised methods and datasets for biomass estimates of micronekton organisms in ocean ecosystem models) linked to ocean research.
Funded as part of Framework Programme 7 (FP7), the Connecting Australian European Science and Innovation Excellence (CAESIE) initiative ran from September 2012 to August 2015. It aimed to enhance science and technology collaboration between industry (small to medium enterprises (SMEs)) and researchers in Europe and Australia in areas of clean energy; sustainable cities; and healthy ageing through sustainable technology.
Under FP7, the AUS-ACCESS4EU project aimed to increase science and technology cooperation between the EU and Australia by identifying access opportunities for European researchers in Australian research capabilities and programmes, and by widely disseminating this information to the European research community.
Square Kilometre Array Telescope and Strategic Partnership with ESO, examples of international co-operation
Australian astronomers have long been recognised internationally for their high-quality research, their world-first instrumentation and their innovative commercialisation. Today, through two of astronomy’s largest multinational partnerships, Australia uses its expertise to influence the global conversation and direction of astronomy, both radio and optical/infrared.
Australia is playing a significant part in the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the international radio telescope for the 21st Century, identified in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap. The SKA is a next-generation radio telescope that will be up to 50 times more sensitive than the best of the present-day instruments. It will give astronomers remarkable insights into the formation of the early Universe, including the emergence of the first stars, galaxies and other structures. A number of EU countries (Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK) are currently involved in the SKA project; with a range of other countries (including France, Germany and Portugal) indicating some interest in joining in the future.
On 11 July 2017, Australia became a Strategic Partner of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This 10-year commitment will provide Australian astronomers with unprecedented access to the world’s foremost suite of optical/infrared telescopes and instruments at La Silla Paranal Observatory (LPO). It will also provide Australian-based industries and instrumentation specialists with the right to work on and bid for tenders for equipment and services at LPO. Additionally, Australian officials and astronomers are represented on ESO’s governance bodies alongside ESO’s 15 EU member states, and presented with opportunities for fellowships, secondments and permanent placements within the organisation. Such access provides Australia with an extraordinary opportunity to collaborate with European colleagues to solve some of the world’s most complex ‘big science’ questions.
Working together to observe the Earth
The European Union’s Copernicus programme is providing insights into our planet, and how it is changing. Australia and the EU are cooperating to ensure data from Copernicus delivers economic, environmental and societal benefits through a comprehensive cooperation arrangement, signed in 2016. Through this arrangement, the EU and Australia are working together to make data from the Copernicus programme’s Sentinel satellites easy to access in the South-East Asia and South Pacific region, to improve the quality of the data through calibration and validation activities, and to establish standards that enable products and services developed using the data to be easily exported.
Australia and the European Union are also working to take advantage of a forthcoming Horizon 2020 call on development of applications using this data. Under this call, Australian and European innovators are encouraged to team up and turn the petabytes of new data being collected through Copernicus into new products and services.
Australia and the EU are both members of Mission Innovation, and have pledged to at least double their investment in clean energy R&D by 2020, to accelerate breakthroughs in clean energy technology via greater international collaboration. Both have research expertise in all the Challenges established under Mission Innovation. Smart grids, hydrogen technology, carbon capture and storage, and heating and cooling are areas of particular focus for stronger ties.
- EU Delegation to Australia
- Horizon 2020
- Available local support for
- Related projects
- Success stories
- Australian Academy of Science
- Academy of Social Sciences in Australia
- Australian Academy of the Humanities
- Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
- Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
- Australian Institute of Marine Science
- Geoscience Australia
- Australian Research Council
- National Health and Medical Research Council
DG Research and Innovation
Policy Officer - R&I Relations with New Zealand
Unit RTD C1 - Policy Coordination, EFTA and Enlargement countries, Russia, Asia and Pacific
Telephone: (+32) 229 97685
18 Arkana Street, Yarralumla ACT 2601
Telephone: (+61) 2 6271 2734
Fax: (+61) 61 2 6273 4445
Dr Alexander Cooke
Counsellor – Industry, Innovation and Science
Australian Embassy to Belgium, Luxembourg and Mission to the European Union and NATO
Avenue des Arts 56, 1000 Brussels
Telephone: (+32) 2 286 0589
GSM: (+32) 486 137 549