Europe and South East Asia: collaboration for innovation
An EU-funded project is helping researchers and policy-makers in Europe and South East Asia form consortia to collaborate on sustainable food, healthcare and water management research. Projects tackle major issues, such as contaminants in food imports or the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance.
Scientific papers may be crammed with important findings, but these results are not always translated into meaningful actions. To tackle the key challenges of the 21st century – from healthcare to agriculture to climate change – scientists must collaborate with policy-makers, businesses and administrators across the globe to apply their discoveries.
European funding supports this kind of international cooperation on global issues. The SEA-EU NET II project is forging strong, strategic connections between academics, businesses and policy-makers in Europe and South East Asia. The project is building networks of connected stakeholders to tackle three urgent issues that are not addressed sufficiently by current collaborative research: water management, infectious diseases and food safety.
“Collaboration in these prominent areas will bring great benefits to both regions,” explains project coordinator Christoph Elineau. “For example, in Europe we import a large proportion of our food from South East Asia. To keep our food free from toxic contaminants, researchers, regulators and farmers from both regions must work together to develop safeguards that are practical and economically viable.”
In the area of infectious diseases, cooperation is needed to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Although the World Health Organisation drafted global plans to confront the issue in 2014, the illegal use of black market antibiotics in livestock is on the rise in South East Asia and European nations are struggling to reduce their dependency on the drugs. However, by pooling resources and expertise, both regions can take a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to overcoming the problems.
The SEA-EU-NET project invited stakeholders from both regions to the ASEAN-EU Science, Technology and Innovation Days in Bangkok in 2014. Over 500 attendees from 12 countries came to mingle with potential partners from a diverse range of backgrounds; they showcased their expertise at an exhibition and 12 science workshops.
“Events like this connect experts from different continents who would otherwise never be aware of each other – or their potential to collaborate,” says Elineau. “The Innovation Days were named as a ‘stand out event’ by foreign ministers from Europe and Asia.”
Connections forged at these brokerage and scientific events were cemented at workshops run by the project to help stakeholders establish consortia and develop proposals for complex European and national funding schemes. Thanks to the work of SEA-EU-NET II, Horizon 2020 has seen an increase in participation from South East Asia; two consortia have already formed and are applying for funding. Elineau believes that applicants who receive help from SEA-EU-NET are more likely to be successful.
The project is far from finished and continues to support the development of consortia composed of members from both regions for Horizon 2020 and other funding schemes. “In March 2015, we held another ‘science, technology and innovation days’ – this time in Paris,” says Elineau. “We are confident that such collaborations will save resources within the two regions and increase the visibility of current research. It truly is a ‘win-win’ situation.”
The project is just one strand of a Europe-wide commitment to develop stronger ties with South East Asia. The EU hopes to foster partnerships that will help to address global challenges, build stability and strengthen economic growth for both regions.