Writing to Australian and British foreign and trade ministers, the two bodies say that they will establish a joint Go8-Russell Group committee following a board meeting on January 31, 2022.
The committee will be tasked with identifying ways to “increase two-way research collaboration and explore how this could be used to boost trade and investment and support economic growth”.
The letter to the ministers comes after a new free trade agreement was signed between Australia and the UK in December 2021. UK foreign secretary Liz Truss and defence secretary Ben Wallace also travelled to Australia in January 2022, to forge “closer defence and security ties”.
“Australia is already one of the UK’s closest research collaborators, and the UK-Australia FTA provides a fantastic opportunity to strengthen academic ties that will help us advance knowledge, develop new skills and tackle major challenges including net zero,” said chief executive of the UK-based organisation comprising 24 universities, Tim Bradshaw.
“Australia is already one of the UK’s closest research collaborators”
The partners will look at shared national priorities and complementary “world-leading” research strengths such as in the social sciences, AI, clean tech or health, he continued.
“People and ideas will be at the heart of our economic recovery and future growth, so we’re excited to work with our Go8 partners in Australia to explore how the FTA could help bring down barriers to talent flow and enhance research and commercial activity between our two countries,” he added.
Alongside research collaboration, they will also look to increase commercialisation activity between researchers and industry partners, and build on their status as trusted partners in areas of sensitive research, the letter detailed.
“The world class research undertaken by the Go8 and Russell Group is critical to the economic future of both countries,” Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said, adding that the FTA provides an “important opportunity” to strengthen cooperation in higher education and research.
The committee will also look to cut bureaucracy through shared IP, data sharing agreements, and minimising travel restrictions.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of university research to the economy, health and security of our nation,” Thomson said.
“Fostering stronger partnerships with like-minded countries through agreements such as the Australia-UK FTA and the trilateral AUKUS partnership is essential in this era of geopolitical change.”
Student and researcher mobility has “obvious benefits” in progressing the objectives and goals of the AUKUS alliance, the letter noted. The trilateral security partnership AUKUS between Australia, the UK and the US was signed in September 2021.
The partners added that they are keen to explore reciprocal schemes for exchange and funding options to support young researchers for example through joint PhDs and early-career researcher sabbaticals, and in particular enhancing opportunities for the “two-way flow of postdoctoral researchers”.
“The Go8 Russell Group alliance will cement and expand our bilateral partnerships, delivering world class education, cutting edge research outcomes and commercialisation opportunities to support economic growth and social wellbeing,” Thomson concluded.
Between 2016-2020, Australia was the UK’s fifth most frequent academic collaborator, and the UK was Australia’s third most frequent academic collaborator, with Go8 producing 43,668 co-publications with a UK partner, 29,123 of which were with Russell Group universities.