HE Dr Michael Pulch welcomed DG Jean-Eric Paquet on behalf of the EABC Board, before an introduction by Group of Eight CEO Vicki Thomson who underlined the depth of the existing R&D collaboration between the EU and Australia, and opportunities to do more in the post-COVID context across many strategic sectors.
Jean-Eric Paquet began with observations on the critical role played by scientists during the pandemic, including in advising political leaders and decision-makers, and on how the crisis contributed to increase visibility and focus on science and research as top policy and fiscal priorities. Research and innovation will be crucial to the EU’s economic recovery, in particular to support the dual digital and climate transformation that the EU will have to undergo in the coming years.
The DG praised the outstanding mobilisation of the global research community and collaboration efforts deployed since the start of the pandemic, with initiatives such as the European Open Science Cloud aiming to provide a transparent and data-driven framework to researchers. He welcomed the ongoing collaboration with Australia and the country’s leading work on tests, treatments and vaccines, while highlighting the importance of international collaboration, in particular for clinical trials. He remarked on the EU’s recently announced Vaccine Strategy and commented on the Union’s ongoing work with industry and global partners.
Beyond the immediate R&D efforts required to address the COVID-19 crisis, the European Commission is proposing over €105 billion for Horizon Europe, the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation for 2021-2027. The EU has expressed a strong interest in furthering its collaboration with Australia under this new programme and in inviting Australia, as a science leader and like-minded partner, to be fully part of Horizon Europe and therefore be eligible to EU funding under the same conditions as EU Member States. Similar discussions have been engaged with New-Zealand, Canada and Japan, which could in effect lead to the creation of a research and innovation space among trusted partners that share common values and strategic interests.
The open discussion with DG Paquet covered a number of topics, including metrics and indicators used by the European Commission to measure impact, and the related work of the EARTO; need for self-sufficiency and research on nuclear technology; changes of perception on R&D; balancing global openness and the pursuit of strategic interests; Australia’s diversification strategy in R&D collaboration; ongoing discussions on Horizon Europe and opportunities for Australia; among other topics.
University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Ivison proposed the Vote of Thanks on behalf of all guests and participants.