The long-standing relations between the European Union and Australia are thriving, with bilateral dialogues in several fields ranging from trade to development cooperation, education to science and innovation and migration to political issues. Australia's remarkable per capita scientific output, among other reasons, makes it a natural partner for the EU.
In 1994, Australia was the first country with which the EU signed a Science and Technology Agreement.
A joint committee for S&T cooperation was set up under this Agreement and meets regularly.
Research and Innovation Priorities have been jointly defined in an S&T Cooperation Roadmap (2010-2012).
The EU and Australia have recently decided to take their cooperation a step further by beginning work on a new formal EU-Australia Framework Agreement.
Australia was one of the first countries to put a researcher mobility portal online, linked to the European Commission's EURAXESS site. This Australian portal, the development of which was funded by the Australian Government, is successfully promoting researcher mobility between Europe and Australia.
To demonstrate its commitment to enhancing S&T cooperation with Europe the Australian government set up an office of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) in Brussels. This office is located in the Australian Embassy and its objectives are threefold:
- Strengthen Australia's engagement with the EU, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European partner countries in the area of science, research and innovation;
- Highlight Australian research excellence in Europe and provide advice to European and Australian stakeholders on opportunities for increasing research cooperation in areas of mutual interest;
- Promote policy dialogue between Australia and the EU, OECD and European partner countries on topics of mutual interest and common challenges in the area of science, research and innovation.
Moreover, a well-established dialogue platform, the Forum for European-Australian Science and Technology Cooperation (FEAST) promotes cooperation at the level of researchers and research stakeholders. This initiative, co-funded by the European Commission and the Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, has been extremely active in profiling and promoting cooperation opportunities in areas of mutual interest and benefit and was renewed for a further four-year period until 2011(FEED project).
Australia has dedicated funding to support cooperation with the EU: the Australia-Europe Research Collaboration Fund, a component of the International Science Linkages (ISL) program (AUD $3.92 million 2008-2011); and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) - European Union Collaborative Research Grants program (AUD $1 million available under each call).
Many areas of Australia-EU cooperation fall within the objectives of the National Research Flagships program of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In 2008, CSIRO received government approval to broaden the use of the Flagship Collaboration Fund for international collaboration (more than AUD $100 million over seven years) and is working on building collaboration with Europe in some of these areas.
Moreover, the Australian Research Council has opened up its fellowships to international candidates for all schemes, providing funding for eligible organisations to promote collaboration, movement and networking between Australia-based and overseas researchers.
Additionally, Australia's participation in the EU Framework Programme is underpinned and reinforced by its strong bilateral research cooperation links with a number of EU Member States. Priority countries for Australia's bilateral engagement include the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Australia also has strong links with other European partner countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. There are also emerging opportunities for cooperation in the EU's new Member States.
Research cooperation between Europe and Australia under the EU Research Framework Programme has steadily increased over the years. In the 5th Framework Programme (FP5) there were 41 projects involving Australian partners. Under the 6th Framework Programme (FP6: 2002-2006) more than 100 Australian organisations participated and this trend has continued under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7: 2007-2013). As of 18 December 2012, a total of 767 eligible proposals were submitted in response to 355 calls for proposals involving 833 participants from Australia. At the same date, 135 Australian partners were taking part in 120 signed agreements involving 2036 participants.
Key areas for cooperation are Health, Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnologies (FAFB) and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These three domains account for 80% of current cooperation within the thematic areas of the Cooperation Programme of FP7. In addition, participation is high in both Research Infrastructure projects (in particular astronomy) and the Mobility Programmes (Marie-Curie and IRSES). Other areas with significant potential but, as yet, lower levels of cooperation are Environment, Energy and Nanotechnology.
Reciprocally, the work plan of the AUS-ACCESS4EU project put into practice the objective of the FP7 Capacities Work Programme "Supporting the EU access to third countries programmes (FP-INCO-2009-5) to help to develop the reciprocity aspects of the S&T agreement by identifying programmes open to EU researchers and promote their participation". The overall objective of the AUS-ACCESS4EU project was to increase S&T 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.
The Access4EU-Project identified 19 programmes for STI cooperation from a wide range of different programme owners (e.g. Linkage and discover projects, future fellowships, flagship clusters, Endeavour Postgraduate Awards, Go8 European Fellowships). Furthermore, it:
- Increased awareness and understanding in Australia about EU interest in Australian S&T;
- Increased awareness of S&T cooperation with Australia among EU researchers;
- Stimulated higher participation of EU researchers in Australian research and innovation programmes; and
- Gave feedback to the European Commission and Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) for improving and reinforcing S&T cooperation. (The project and its first results were presented by the Australian partners at the JSTCC meeting held in Sydney in June 2010).
- Encouraged good cooperation between the AUS-ACCESS4EU and the other ACCESS4EU projects with regard to the joint dissemination strategy and cooperation on jointly organised events.
The new EU-Australia bilateral dialogue platform for Research and Innovation connecting Australian-European Science and innovation Excellence (the CAESIE project which runs from September 2012 to August 2015) will contribute to the development of a more strategic and result-oriented partnership by driving research collaboration addressing key societal challenges of common interest. It will take into account the experiences and results of previous and on-going projects and promote complementarities with activities carried out under other EU programmes (e.g. the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan). CAESIE will also contribute to extending cooperation beyond research to include SMEs and clusters to cover innovation issues of common interest and the adoption and uptake of research outcomes.
Square Kilometre Array Telescope, an example of cooperation
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. This will shed light on the birth, and eventual death, of the cosmos. (Read more-see Annex).
The SKA will require new technology and progress in fundamental engineering fields such as information and communications technology, high performance computing and productive manufacturing techniques. It will comprise over 3000 antennas. Over half the antennas will be located in a central 5 x 5 kilometre region, with the remainder distributed in groups of 50-100 antennas over 3000 kilometres or more. They will be linked electronically to form one enormous telescope. The combination of unprecedented collecting area, versatility and sensitivity make the SKA the world's premier imaging and survey telescope over a wide range of radio frequencies, producing the sharpest pictures of the sky of any telescope. Australia is one of two possible hosts for the $3 billion international project, with the proposed core to be located in the Mid-West region of Western Australia. Australia is already building the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio-telescope, which will amass more information in the first six hours of operation than has been saved from all the world's radio-telescopes to date. It has recently been joined by New Zealand in its bid for to host the SKA. As part of its Super Science Initiative, the Government will provide $80 million for the Australian National Centre of SKA Science in Perth. The highly collaborative centre will manage the huge amount of data flowing from ASKAP and later the SKA, and will help to establish Australia as a world hub for high-performance computing. Other measures include:
- $20.9 million for Australia to take sole responsibility for the Anglo-Australian Observatory, home of the world's top ranked four-metre optical telescope;
- $10.0 million to construct state-of-the-art instruments and data acquisition infrastructure to store, process and analyse information captured from different next-generation telescopes;
- $40.0 million for a new Australian Space Research Program to support space research, innovation and skills development in areas of national significance; and
- $8.6 million to establish a Space Policy Unit, which will provide whole-of-Government advice on space and industry development.)
- EU Delegation to Australia
- ERAWATCH country page
- EU 7th Framework Programme
- Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR)
- 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
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