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CNRS in Australia: a highly structuring cooperative framework

24 May 2018

Between May 1st and 3rd, during a state visit to Australia by the French President accompanied by the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Franco-Australian scientific cooperation was one of the main points discussed, with the CNRS playing a significant role.

On this occasion, Patrick Nédellec, director of the DERCI (European Research and International Cooperation Department) met one of the key partners of the CNRS and together they set out the major lines of a highly structuring cooperation projects, with the signing in particular of four agreements.

To date, cooperation has involved the conduct of joint research projects within 8 LIA (International Associated Laboratories) alongside some of Australia’s key universities: the Australian National University regarding mathematics and chemistry, the University of Melbourne for physics, computer science and biology, and Macquarie University for photonics and biology.

During the visit, a formal cooperation agreement was also drawn up with Deakin University and the University of Tasmania concerning a contagious form of cancer affecting Tasmanian devils; the visit also enabled confirmation of the growing interest of CNRS laboratories in working with the University of New South Wales on solar energy (production, storage, etc.).

The many ongoing joint projects between CNRS researchers and their Australian counterparts emphasize the extremely positive dynamic links between the two countries, which were further strengthened by the signing of a defense agreement between France and Australia, leading to the sale of 12 submarines in April 2016. Since then, Australian and French universities have been on the lookout for potential synergies over a wide range of research areas that are not necessarily restricted to defense. CNRS laboratories are at the forefront of these actions and have greatly benefited from this positive development.

Finally, the next Joint Science and Technology Meeting (JSTM) will be held towards the end of 2018; at this high-level meeting between France and Australia, a scientific roadmap will be set out for the coming years. The CNRS, which plays a significant role in scientific cooperation with Australia in several areas, has already been involved in preliminary discussions concerning the preparation of this roadmap.
Finally, during his discussion on strategy, President Macron set out the main topics of an Indian-Pacific axis, particularly regarding research and innovation.
The creation of such an axis that includes Singapore coincides fully with the strengthening activities and the important presence of the CNRS in this part of the world. The accent was placed on major areas of interest common to both countries, such as energy and the protection of coral reefs. These themes, discussed by French minister Frédérique Vidal and her Australian counterparts in preparation of the JSTM, will involve increased collaboration between CNRS laboratories and their French university partners, which will be in a position to make a number of proposals at the actual meeting in late 2018.

French delegation at the University of New South Walescenter