We write to convey to you the very strong interest the Group of Eight (Go8) research-intensive universities in Australia and the European Australian Business Council (EABC) have in our nation achieving associate country status under Horizon Europe.
The recent Horizon Europe co-design and implementation consultation processes provided the opportunity for our members to collate their views on Australian participation in Europe’s next flagship research and innovation program. Together, the Go8 universities have a dominant footprint as Australian participants in Horizon 2020, being involved in at least 102 projects with a total worth of more than 330 million euros. This record and approach are reinforced by the Go8 members’ unanimous interest in being more deeply involved in Horizon Europe, including through sharing the specific expertise that can be reaped from our unique perspective.
Collectively, as an indication that the Go8’s voice has authority in the Australian research context, the Go8 expends Aus$6.4 billion on research and development each year, almost 60 per cent of the university sector’s R&D. In a country where most researchers reside in universities, this is significant as an indicator of the Go8’s contribution to national research outcomes. All our eight universities are ranked in the top 120 universities in the world, with seven of these consistently in the top global 100 universities.
The EABC as the peak business organisation which mission is to promote the institutional, trade and investment relationship between Australia and the European Union (EU) has a strong focus on promoting stronger research and innovation ties between the EU and Australia. In that regard, the EABC considers there is great potential to further enhance the existing linkages and promote new joint initiatives, in particular under Australia’s association to Horizon Europe.
This is the first time the Go8 and the EABC have partnered to make a public submission of this kind, which further conveys the conviction of our belief that there are great benefits for both Europeans and Australians should Australia be able to participate more fully in Horizon Europe.
The Go8 and EABC recommend:
- That – in the spirit of a desired common goal for formal partnership between Europe and Australia under Horizon Europe – the European Commission continue to work positively with the Australian Government and stakeholders, towards Australia being granted Associate country status
- That consideration of Australian associate country membership be on the basis of a preferred model of access based on previous record of participation
- That the designed program for Horizon Europe be flexible enough and open enough to permit as wide a participation by an associate country member as possible
- 4. That Go8/EABC representatives be included in formal discussion of possible Australian membership when this arises
- 5. To promote the conditions for further participation of Australian organisations, in particular SMEs, in Horizon Europe and other European programmes, through the establishment in Australia of a Business Cooperation Centre for the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
VICKI THOMSON JASON COLLINS
CHIEF EXECUTIVE CEO
- Go8 strongly supports efforts, including by the Australian Government, to ensure Australia is granted associate country status under Horizon Europe.
- There is a greater imperative now, arising from geopolitical, trade or security reasons, for international research links to be strengthened between trusted parties with significant benefit arising from strengthened relations
- Horizon Europe provides a ‘once in the lifetime’ opportunity to significantly boost existing engagement between Australian and European parties including researchers – in universities, government and other institutions – as well as industry.
- Australia and Europe have a strong record of research collaboration. Go8 institutions are key and mature collaborators in this context.
- Industry links are created and forged through Australian including Go8 participation in programs like Horizon Europe – links that are beneficial to research, industry, economy and welfare in both regions
General context and rationale
Australia’s robust economy, its strong regulatory foundations, its record contributions in quality research, and its sound governance make it an ideal and reliable partner for collaborations. Australia’s political stability as a nation also puts it in excellent stead as a partner amidst geopolitical changes across the world.
As a whole, the EU represents Australia’s most significant economic partner, with close to $110 billion in annual goods and services trade, and total two-way investment nearing $2 trillion.
- The relationship between Australia and the European Union has strongly gained momentum over the past decades, with bilateral agreements such as the Crisis Management Agreement and more recently the treaty-level Framework Agreement which collectively enshrine our common interests and shared values, and have thereby paved the way to an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
- The current efforts towards establishing an Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement additionally emphasise the importance of our relationship. As trading partners with shared commitments and interests, there is much to be gained from securing our two-way science and innovation partnership, which can not only result in new joint scientific discoveries but also contribute new mechanisms and pathways for industry and economic growth.
That considerable benefit for Europeans, Australians and the global community from joint efforts in research and innovation has been recognised for some time by the two sides, with the relationship enshrined in the first treaty-level science and technology agreement signed by the European Union with an industrialised country in 1994. Although, for a number of factors, the UK remains Australia’s main partner in Europe when it comes to R&D collaboration, collaborative projects with organisations from many other European countries have developed over the last years, with these countries including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and many others.
Australia was the European Union’s fifth highest non-EU collaborator in science and technology over the period 2011-2015, with over 13,000 co-publications a year. The EU itself is Australia’s single largest collaborator. The number of co-publications is now estimated at around 30,000 a year.
- Between 2012 and 2016, there were 73,000 co-publications between the EU and Australian authors, 47% of which were with authors in the UK.
- Around 60% of these (43,600) were between EU and Go8 authors.
The Group of Eight
The Go8 is a major contributor to Australian economic and R&D strengths.
- The Go8 has been estimated as having an economic impact of AUD$66.4 billion each year
- Go8 research activity contributes AUD$24.5 billion to the economy each year – around AUD$1000 per Australian
- Every AUD$1 of Go8 research income delivers almost AUD$10 in benefits to the private sector
The Go8 institutions contribute the most significant bloc of publicly funded researchers in Australia, providing 53 per cent of Australia’s higher education academics devoted to R&D, 50 per cent of all higher education personnel devoted to R&D, and 36 per cent of the country’s total public and private resources devoted to R&D. Go8 institutions are therefore lynchpins of Australian scientific and innovation international collaboration, including with European counterparts, which is further supported when it is considered to what extent Go8 institutions have collectively participated in Europe’s existing research and innovation program, Horizon 2020.
Go8 institutions are major contributors to Australia’s international reputation as punching above its weight in research. Australia ranked fifth in the world in 2018 in terms of numbers of highly cited researchers, more than doubling its number in four years between 2014 and 2018. Of the 245 highly cited Australian researchers, 61 per cent of those were primarily affiliated with a Go8 university.
The Go8 produce more than 55 per cent of Australia’s science graduates, more than 40 per cent of engineering graduates and awards half of all research doctorates.
Go8 institutions and their researchers are leaders in collaboration with European counterparts when it comes to major research ventures. For example:
- Monash University hosts EMBL Australia, the life sciences research network that underpins Australia’s partnership of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
- Australia, with the European Union and the United States, was a co-founder of the Research Data Alliance, including through Monash’s Australian National Data Service whose Executive Director Ross Wilkinson served as a co-chair of the RDA. The University of Western Australia, also a Go8 member, currently provides the Australian member on the RDA Council.
- Go8 universities, including the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia are key partners in Australia’s participation in the European Southern Observatory.
- Australian participation in the Square Kilometre Array is supported in part by the partnership involving the University of Western Australia along with CSIRO in the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Partnership of Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE).
Go8 institutions also have strong partnerships with European industry, some examples of which are outlined at Attachment A.
Australia and the Go8 as partners in Horizon 2020 and beyond in Horizon Europe
The Go8 has been an advocate of Australia’s participation in Horizon Europe since shortly after the program was first announced. Discussions began between the Go8/ EABC and European counterparts in July 2018 when the Go8 Chief Executive participated in an EABC business mission to Europe.
As context, Australia is the fourth largest international “non-eligible” participant to the EU’s current R&D funding programme Horizon 2020, and the third largest “non-eligible” recipient of EU funding.
- There have been 1,369 applications from Australian organisations to Horizon 2020 grants as of September 2019, 1231 of which were eligible.
- In terms of success rates, 16.25% of total eligible proposals have been retained.
- 201 grants have been signed so far.
- It is indicated that the net EU contribution is 5.91 million euros to Australia under Horizon 2020.
As evidence of the Go8’s commitment and interest, the Go8 universities participate individually or work with each other as partners with European counterparts in over 100 Horizon 2020 projects including research training opportunities.
The commitment is such that although Go8 institutions receive Horizon 2020 funding for just four of the projects – totalling €691,195 – Go8s have continued to successfully nominate for project teams or to participate in projects. The larger part of Go8 participation is also not funded directly by Australian Government grants, but instead is supported through institutional resources including funding for travel and accommodation and so on.
A small sample of projects where Go8
universities are involved are described at Attachment B, with a list of
Horizon 2020 projects that Go8 institutions are known to be involved in at Attachment
For the Go8, the case for participating in Europe’s premier research and innovation program – and for Australian researchers to be sought after by European counterparts – is clear.
- It enables
collaboration between Australian and European researchers to tackle shared world
challenging, world first or complex research and innovation ventures with
top-level academics and colleagues.
- Examples of these might be in developing new and resistant agricultural crop species, wild or bushfire management which is encroaching as a worldwide issue, medical challenges including cancer management and mental health, and in advancing knowledge in astronomy and quantum research.
- It enables
access to industry linkages including European and Australian, which is a
strong incentive for institutions in a country still developing strategies to
increase research-industry collaborations and equally provides European
business the chance to learn about and draw from Australian expertise in a
range of areas.
- Horizon 2020 projects have enabled Go8 participants to work with pharmaceutical and other health, car manufacturing, electronics, telecommunications or engineering industry, among others.
- Over 155 discrete private-for-profit entities, most of which are European companies, are involved in projects that the Go8 participate in. These include companies from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.
- It enables
Go8 researchers and institutions to share and showcase first class or unique or
research expertise or research infrastructure and equipment with European
counterparts. As a country with impressive research infrastructure, Australia
has much to offer.
- Go8 institutions host or lead a significant part of the national research infrastructure facilities, including around half of the so called National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy facilities.
- Three of the Go8s team up to lead the newly created Australian Research Data Cloud building on individual national facilities in research data management, collaboration and storage led by each of the three.
- The Go8s also lead high performance computing capability, plant phenomics facilities, astronomical instrumentation, characterisation including microscopy and imaging capabilities, terrestrial ecosystem monitoring facilities, a population health research network, an urban research infrastructure network and a phenomics facility.
A note on Go8 specific interests in Horizon Europe
With its breadth of research coverage, the Go8 collectively or through its individual institutions could theoretically participate in most areas under the three Pillars, in all five Missions, and when surveyed indicate that 29 of the proposed European partnerships are of interest. Five of the partnerships attract consistent interest from the Go8.
Nevertheless, the Go8 remains flexible in its approach with its European partners including the European Commission to discuss and emphasise which areas are most strategically aligned with it as a cohort and as an Australian participant.
EABC specific aligned interests in Horizon Europe
The European Australian Business Council (EABC) is a peak business organisation which mission is to promote the institutional, trade and investment relationship between Australia and the European Union (EU).
Promoting stronger research and innovation ties is an essential part of this agenda and has been a priority for the EABC, in particular through the Council’s longstanding collaboration with the Group of Eight, with great potential to promote new joint initiatives under Horizon Europe.
The EABC has given much attention to the European policy models of collaboration between research and industry, through regular engagement with major European research institutes, industries and companies across the continent, and has long supported the establishment of a similar policy framework in Australia. The EABC is convinced that an enhanced participation in Horizon Europe will also foster the development of such framework in Australia.
The EABC has long advocated for a free trade agreement as a missing piece of the bilateral architecture to be established and welcomed the launch of formal FTA negotiations in June 2018 and progress made since then. Beyond liberalising trade in goods and services and facilitating investment, the agreement will constitute the necessary legal framework to better align the EU and Australian regulatory systems and IP regimes, and allow for the mutual recognition of skills and qualifications, among many others. Such alignments will greatly contribute to further enhance and facilitate research and innovation collaboration.
The FTA will be a game changer for the 2,200 European companies operating in Australia, and further encourage the substantial and increasing volume of two-way investment flowing into long-term, economic capacity-building projects across Europe and Australia.
Australia’s accession to an Associate country status would further complete this bilateral architecture, and open up new opportunities for researchers, universities, businesses and individuals alike, and contribute to Australia’s long-term prosperity.
In terms of Australia-based companies, Aurecon Australia and Thales Australia were among the top three organisations receiving EU funding under Horizon 2020, respectively receiving €1.81M and €0.9M. Only five Australia-based SMEs have participated in Horizon 2020 so far.
However, a number of Australian organisations use their European subsidiaries to participate in Horizon 2020 and other European programmes, which tends to limit full visibility on Australia’s actual participation in the programme. For example:
- Cochlear Benelux received over €0.5M for coordinating the EU-funded project MOSAICS (running from 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2023), in collaboration with the Stichting Katholieke Universiteit (Netherlands).
- Calix (Europe) received over €7.5M for coordinating the EU-funded project “Low Emissions Intensity Lime and Cement” (LEILAC – running from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2020), in collaboration with Heidelbergcement (Germany) and other organisations from Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, and the Netherlands. The consortium also included Calix Ltd, as an Australian organisation.
Australia’s association to Horizon Europe would enable Australian organisations to participate in the programme and be eligible for funding under the same conditions as legal entities from the Member States. This would be a game-changer for business in Australia and would open the door to European and international consortia and projects in a wide range of sectors.
As an Associate Country, Australia would also be in the scope of European organisations seeking collaboration opportunities with international partners. Australian organisations would be more attractive partners for European entities looking at forming consortia.
In order to promote the conditions for further
participation of Australian organisations, in particular SMEs, in Horizon
Europe and other European programmes, the EABC is supporting the establishment
in Australia of a Business Cooperation Centre for the Enterprise Europe Network
(EEN). The EEN will offer an opportunity for Australian organisations to
connect with their counterparts, and facilitate collaborative projects and
Cases – Go8 innovation impacting European headquartered industry
- Australian National University – Pharmaxis
Initially a virtual company run out of the Australian National University, and now located in Sydney, Pharmaxis develops Bronchitol, its proprietary, inhaled dry powder mannitol formulation, for the treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchiectasis; and for the treatment of other acute and chronic pulmonary conditions. Established in 1998, Pharmaxis in October 1999 obtained a license to a series of patents in the autoimmune area owned by the Australian National University. In 2007, the company’s drug discovery unit focused on respiratory drug discovery and immune disorders assumed the work previously carried out at the John Curtin School of Medical Research within the ANU.
In 2012, European Commission approved Bronchitol for the treatment of cystic fibrosis in adults in 29 countries, including Germany and the UK. Bronchitol was also approved for listing on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Aridol® a lung function test to help diagnose asthma was also the subject of a clinical trial program run by Pharmaxis and is approved and sold in Europe, Australia and Asia.
- Monash University – 3D printing of a small jet engine
Professor Xinhua Wu, Director of the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing, is an internationally recognised leader in her field who also heads the ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals. The work of her team has resulted in 3D printing of complex jet engine components cutting down significantly on time needed to manufacture from 6-24 months to 1-2 weeks. In 2014 she 3D printed the world’s first full size jet engine and in 2016 achieved international aerospace qualification for 3D printed Titanium components for civil aircrafts C919. In 2016, Amaero Engineering — a spin-out company from Monash University’s innovation cluster —signed an agreement with Safran Power Units to print turbojet components for Safran, the French-based global aerospace and defence company, establishing a new manufacturing facility on the Safran Power Units site in Toulouse, France. Once Safran has tested and validated the components produced by the Amaero team, the factory will enter serial production, producing components that will eventually be assembled into auxiliary power units and turbojet engines for commercial and defence use.
- University of Sydney – Thales collaboration
In July 2017, the University of Sydney and
Thales Australia signed a memorandum of understanding
designed to formalise five years of collaboration over new technologies and
Australia CEO Mr Chris Jenkins noted that “Thales Australia’s long-term
relationship with the University has contributed to breakthrough technology in underwater
sensing and Thales’s sovereign capability in fibre laser sensors.” while
University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence noted that the signing
was a significant milestone that would see the University of Sydney’s
researchers offered new opportunities to collaborate on transformational
industry projects and Thales to obtain access to world-class research.
- University of Queensland – Siemens MRI collaboration
In 2014, the University of Queensland signed a collaboration agreement with Siemens Australia to boost R&D in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), leading to better diagnosis and treatment of degenerative diseases. UQ Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj noted that “UQ has a strong track record in magnetic resonance research, with most of the MRI scanners in the world using technology developed by UQ’s Professor Stuart Crozier. This collaboration with Siemens, a globally operating technology company and a world leader in magnetic resonance, is a perfect fit with UQ’s strength in this area.” The agreement focused specifically on research enabled by the powerful Siemens MAGNETOM 7 Tesla (7T) scanner, the first 7T whole-body MRI scanner in the Southern Hemisphere, which was installed at UQ’s Centre for Advanced Imaging in 2014.
- University of Melbourne signs MOU with BAE systems
BAE Systems Australia agreed to consider opportunities to collaborate in relations to graduate placement, internships, research and development activities and sharing of facilities, when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Melbourne in early 2018. As part of the MoU, University of Melbourne students would gain access to equipment, data and testing facilities at the BAE Systems Fishermans Bend facility and leverage BAE System’s global activities, networks and early careers programs.
- University of Melbourne and Sanofi Pasteur
Sanofi Pasteur, the Vaccines Global Unit of
Sanofi, and University of Melbourne entered a three-year agreement to co-found Proof-of-Concept studies, covering
programs in infectious disease, microbiology and immunology from 2014-2017. The
collaboration has been very productive and several outstanding projects were
identified. The collaborative culture of both organisations will continue to
underpin new projects and future products in infection and immunology.
Examples of Horizon 2020 projects where Go8 is contributing
- Geo-Safe – Geospatial based Environment for
Optimisation Systems Addressing Fire Emergencies
- University of Melbourne
Scientists from different specialties, both in EU and Australia, have already developed methods and models in order to improve the management and decision process pertaining to preparedness and response phases in case of bushfire. The present project, named Geospatial based Environment for Optimisation Systems Addressing Fire Emergencies (GEO SAFE), aims at creating a network enabling the two regions to exchange knowledge, ideas and experience , thus boosting the progress of wildfires knowledge and the related development of innovative methods for dealing efficiently with such fires.
- EAVI2020 – European AIDS Vaccine Initiative
- University of Melbourne
- University of NSW
Clinical trials are now underway to develop a protective vaccine against HIV as a huge milestone for this project. The trial is the result of a three-year effort bringing together leading HIV researchers from across Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA. It is widely acknowledged that a protective vaccine would be the most effective means to reduce HIV-1 spread and ultimately eliminate the pandemic, while a therapeutic vaccine may help mitigate the clinical course of disease and lead to strategies of viral eradication. some of the most competitive research groups in vaccine discovery from European public institutions and biotechs from 9 EU countries together with top Australian and Canadian groups and US collaborators, have agreed to join forces in EAVI, providing a pool of international expertise at the highest level. EAVI2020 will provide a platform for the discovery and selection of several new, diverse and novel preventive and/or therapeutic vaccine candidates for HIV/AIDS.
- EarthServer-2 – Agile Analytics on Big Data
- Australian National University
a sea of data is no use if it can’t be interpreted. Recognised by Copernicus Masters, EARTHSERVER-2 delivers what creators describe as ‘game-changing new services’ by enhancing existing data archives with flexible, scalable query functionality, whose results will form a substantial contribution to GEOSS and Copernicus. As part of these services, the team has developed the Earth Observation Data Service, an extraordinary Big Data platform to enable fast and easy access to geospatial data to support time-series analysis. Copernicus Masters, Europe’s leading innovation platform for commercial Earth observation applications, has recognised the project’s achievements. The eodataservice.org service was a finalist of the Big Data Challenge 2017, and has been selected to take part in the Copernicus Accelerator project.
- Compare – COllaborative Management Platform for
detection and Analyses of (Re-)emerging and foodborne outbreaks in Europe
- Australian National University
Scientists supported by the EU-funded COMPARE project have discovered two new extensively drug-resistant (XDR) bacteria causing typhoid fever. Both new strains are reported to be different from the one that was found to be responsible for the outbreak of XDR typhoid reported in Pakistan earlier in 2018. The authors found that “there are multiple and unrelated genetic mutations causing resistance in strains from diverse geographic origins.” The ongoing COMPARE project was set up to accelerate the process of detection and response to disease outbreaks among humans and animals worldwide through the use of new genome technology. It aims to reduce the impact and cost of disease outbreaks
- University of Western Australia
Aquaspace aimed to explore how and where does aquaculture best fits into our oceans and freshwater lakes. The central goal of AQUASPACE was to provide increased space of high water quality for aquaculture by adopting the Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture (EAA) and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). The AQUASPACE team, comprising 21 partners, adopted a case study approach at sites in Europe, North America, Australia and China, to produce a range of tools that will enable effective implementation of EAA and MSP to support the aquaculture sector. Pursuing this goal has the potential to deliver food security and increased employment opportunities through economic growth.
- University of Adelaide
This project examines the visual systems of the Squamata (i.e. the lizards and snakes), a group comprising ~25% of terrestrial vertebrates, displaying exceptional diversity, and with greater variation in eye morphology and retinal photoreceptors than all other vertebrates combined. The project will aim to answer major questions in visual science in our understanding of the origin of animal vision which potential consequences of increasing our understanding of the human visual genetic disorders under the newly emerging Phylomedicine paradigm.
- Dustbusters – Dust and gas in planet forming
discs (new – started 1 January 2019)
- Monash University
The overall aim of this project is to strengthen the collaboration of groups located in Europe, USA, Chile and Australia – many of them already collaborating actively – in order to (1) develop and use suitable numerical algorithms and techniques to address key unsolved issues related to the interaction of newborn planets with the gas and dust environment in which they are born and (2) to compare such models with the most advanced observations of protostellar discs, obtained with high resolution telescopes in the IR and sub-mm.
- BRAVE – BRidging gaps for the Adoption of
- University of Sydney
Advances in vehicle automation allow the circulation of vehicles with a minimal human intervention in the near future. However, this brings new technical and non-technical challenges that are to be addressed to ensure safe adoption of level 3 automated vehicles. This project involves multidisciplinary research to ensure the needs of the users (drivers), other road users (other drivers and Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs)), and the perspectives of stakeholders (driving instructors, insurance companies, authorities, certifiers, policy makers and regulators), are taken into account in obtaining viable and market-ready products.
 Based on Horizon 2020 projects listed on CORDIS, downloaded 2 September 2019.
 By comparison, R&D produced by government and private non-profit organisations in Australia including the key publicly funded government research organisation, CSIRO, total just under $3.3 billion a year.
 Australia ranks 8th out of 36 OECD+ countries in its contribution to the top 1 per cent of highly cited publications per million population (cited in Commonwealth of Australia 2016, Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016).
 Australia has entered its 28th year of consecutive annual economic growth
 The EU is Australia’s second largest trading partner, its third last export destination and second largest services export market (https://dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aeufta/Pages/default.aspx)
 Thomson Reuters Incites – data provided by University of Queensland (2017).
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia, 2016. Total R&D academics estimated by ABS in higher education were 24,075 (PYE) in 2016, of which 12,877 were from Go8 universities.
 Data is from ABS 2016 Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia; ABS 2017 Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2015-16; and ABS 2018 Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia, 2016-17
 Clarivate 2018, Globally highly cited researchers 2018 (https://clarivate.com/news/global-highly-cited-researchers-2018-list-reveals-influential-scientific-researchers-and-their-institutions/)
 In total, there are 235 Australian participations in Horizon 2020, mostly as self-funded partners though most directly benefiting from European funding. A large majority of these projects are in fundamental research, albeit a significant share involve closer-to-market activities (over 10% of the total) in sectors including health, ICT (including Internet of Things and smart objects), forest management, earth observation, aquaculture, and smart cities.