Paul Verma, Australia India Taskforce on Science Technology Innovation: Strengthening the Australian-Indian research alliance


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Professor Paul Verma, Principal Scientist – Reproductive Biology, South Australian Research Institute (SARDI) and Adjunct Professor and Head, Stem Cells & Reprogramming Group, Monash University Member, Australia India Taskforce on Science Technology Innovation delivered this presentation at the 2013 Towards Research Excellence conference. In its 3rd year event attendees met under the theme “From Impact to Excellence – An analysis of the challenges confronting the research sector.” From the challenges of refining regulatory frameworks toward research standards to the concepts of measuring real world impact and funding/investment returns, bridging the gap between current research output and productivity whilst securing the long term sustainability of the research workforce, remains a critical priority for securing Australia’s future prosperity. For more information about the annual event, please visit the conference website:

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Paul Verma, Australia India Taskforce on Science Technology Innovation: Strengthening the Australian-Indian research alliance

  1. 1. 3rd Annual Towards Research Excellence Conference 10th December - Rydges, Melbourne Strengthening the AustralianIndian research alliance Paul J. Verma Professor of Reproductive Biology South Australian Research Institute (SARDI) Adjunct Professor Monash University Advisory Panel- Stem Cells Australia-India Strategic Research Fund
  2. 2. Talk Outline Strengthening the Australian-Indian research alliance • Building strong partnerships around research collaboration • Exploring the possibilities for shared innovation, shared intellectual capital and mutual wealth generation powered through research • Australia – India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) • Examining alternate funding mechanisms for the progression of science and technology collaboration
  3. 3. Building Strong Partnerships around research collaboration • The Australian Government aims to lift Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) per person into the world’s top 10 by 2025 (Australia in the Asian Century White Paper) • Australia produces around 3% of the world’s knowledge (97% produced elsewhere) • To maximise a return on research investment- International research linkages are essential to access knowledge and expertise not readily available in the country. • Accordingly, the White Paper identified supporting Australian researchers to broaden and strengthen their partnerships with the region as a key policy pathway to achieve national objectives. • To achieve this goal, Australia will need to engage more deeply with Asia and increase its productivity through an enhanced research and innovation capability. • More comprehensive relationships with Asian countries, especially with key regional nations – China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea
  4. 4. Why India? • International research collaboration is an essential activity that sustains the wellbeing of Australians through solving national challenges and increasing productivity • We share many climatic and environmental regions with India • Improved health services, food and energy security, environmental sustainability, and innovation all depend on the discovery and the creation of new knowledge • India has already displaced Australia within the global top ten countries by number of scientific publications and is set to continue the rapid growth seen over the past decade. It will be an increasingly important player in global research efforts. • Australia’s links with India in this field remain comparatively underdeveloped: Australia still produces more co-authored scientific papers with the Netherlands, Sweden or Singapore than with India.
  5. 5. Australia – India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) Australia’s initial commitment of $20 million over five years to the AISRF was announced during the Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard’s visit to India in 2006, and reciprocated by India. In 2009, the Prime Ministers of Australia and India announced their agreement to upgrade relations between our two countries to the level of a Strategic Partnership, and to extend and expand the AISRF. Australia’s commitment rose to $64 million over the ten years to 2015-16 Reiterated in 2012 by Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard during meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
  6. 6. Australia – India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) AISRF Objectives The objectives of the AISRF are to: • Increase the uptake of leading edge science and technology (S&T) by supporting: o collaboration between Australian and Indian researchers in strategically focused, leading edge scientific research and technology projects; and o strengthening strategic alliances between Australian and Indian researchers • Facilitate Australia’s and India’s access to the global S&T system.
  7. 7. AISRF Program Components The research engagement supported by the program can be described as comprising two broad categories of activity: • ideas exchange & relationship building – achieved via o international staff exchanges to discuss research topics o access improved research techniques, fellowships, conferences and workshops o participation in multilateral science and research policy forums • collaborative research projects – involving collaboration on specific research projects by individual researchers, research groups and institutions.
  8. 8. S&T fund priority areas R7 Collaborative Workshops • Agricultural Research • Astronomy and Astrophysics • Environment Sciences (including climate change research) • Material science (including nanotechnology) • Renewable Energy • Marine Sciences • Earth Sciences • Information and Communication Technology Collaborative Research Projects • Information and Communication Technology • Marine Sciences • Earth Sciences
  9. 9. BioTech priority areas R7 Collaborative Workshops • Biomedical Devices and Implants • Stem Cells • Transgenic Crops and Marker-assisted Breeding • Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods • Bioremediation • Bioenergy and Biofuels • Vaccines / Medical Diagnostics Collaborative Research Projects • Vaccines, immunomodulators and immunotherapeutics • Biotechnological interventions for improved agricultural productivity
  10. 10. Collaboration The fund has been highly successful in linking scientists from both countries. • Over 28 Australian institutions, close to 100 Indian institutions, and hundreds of scientists have worked on projects support by the fund. • Projects have been supported in a number of areas including agricultural research, astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, ICT, marine science, materials science, nanotechnology, renewable energy, stem cells, biofuels, bioremediation, bioenergy and biofuel, nutraceuticals, vaccines, and transgenic crops and marker assisted breeding. • The primary fields of research collaboration between Australian and Indian researchers are medicine, engineering and agricultural and biological sciences.
  11. 11. Percentage of AISRF expenditure by activity type, 2006 to 2012
  12. 12. Percentage of AISRF expenditure by mode of delivery, 200607 to 2015-16
  13. 13. Popularity & competitiveness The very high demand for AISRF grants indicates the program has been successful in encouraging Australian researchers to work with non-traditional partners. More than 1,000 applications for AISRF funding have been received for the competitive components of the program, with the average success rates being only: • 9 per cent for the Indo-Australia Science and Technology Fund; • 14 per cent for the Indo-Australia Biotechnology Fund; and • 4 per cent for the Grand Challenge Fund. Well below traditional ARC and NHMRC grants Rated Category 1 Research Infrastructure Block Grants (RIBG)
  14. 14. Outcomes to date • Supported over 200 projects and activities. o 60 grants (49 research projects and 5 workshops) via the Indo-Australia Science and Technology Fund; o 45 grants (40 research projects and 5 workshops) via the Indo-Australia Biotechnology Fund; o 7 grants for research projects via the Grand Challenges Fund; o 9 grants via the Targeted Allocations component of the program; o 49 fellowships to assist 16 young Australian researchers and 33 senior Australian researchers to work in Indian research organisations; and o 32 fellowships to assist 21 young Indian researchers and 11 senior Indian researchers to work in Australian research organisations.
  15. 15. Growth in scientific papers co-authored by Australian and Indian researchers
  16. 16. Strategic Policy Alignment The AISRF is well aligned with Australian Government policy. • supports the overall intent and several of the individual objectives identified in the White Paper • contributes directly to Australia’s goal of developing our knowledge partnership with India • establishes the people-to-people links in research seen as essential to Australia’s strategic agenda for education and training engagement with India • strengthens Australia’s national research fabric by linking with Indian research skills, expertise and networks.
  17. 17. Looking ahead The AISRF has become an important plank in the broader diplomatic relationship with India. It is considered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be a flagship program in the bilateral relationship. Increased emphasis on proposals of a greater scope than individual research projects Investments should aim to establish lasting institutional and researcher relationships that enhance research expertise and provide additional facilities so as to increase the quality, scale and duration of effort applied to solving Australian and Indian research priorities.
  18. 18. Exploring the possibilities for shared innovation, shared intellectual capital and mutual wealth generation through research Australia has a strong track record of Ground breaking innovations • the bionic ear; • the cervical cancer vaccine; • Wi-Fi wireless local area network; • the first artificial pacemaker; • the first ‘black box’ flight data recorder. Australian Government strategy for engagement with India. • Under the country strategy, emphasis on promoting the reputation, ranking, teaching and research strengths of Australian universities to ensure them as the first choice when Indian universities and businesses are looking for partners. • Linkages between research, business, and industry will focus on commercial outcomes. • This will be achieved by leveraging off the success of Austrade, and the AISRF to help develop closer bilateral scientific collaboration.
  19. 19. Exploring the possibilities with India Indian companies had an opportunity to learn of Australia’s research and development capabilities at the Australian Innovation Showcase, held in New Delhi in early November. Highlighted Australian expertise in areas such as information technology, biotechnology, materials science for advanced manufacturing and energy efficiency; and offered Indian companies an opportunity to partner with Australian universities, research institutions and technology companies to: • Gain access to leading research for new product development and process improvement to increase competitiveness and develop new export markets; and • Invest in technology start-ups to commercialise and launch products for the global market. The showcase was part of Austrade’s work in promoting linkages between industry and academia, trade, investment, and education.
  20. 20. Examining alternate funding mechanism for the progression of science and technology collaboration A few of our universities have established a presence in India to foster institutional linkages and support closer links between both research communities. Government supported projects are funded through a number of institutions including: • The Australian Research Council (ARC) notes the increasing globalisation of research, and has developed an international strategy as a result. ARC’s aim in supporting international collaboration is to maximise Australia’s contribution to and benefits from international research collaborations, partnerships, developments and policy. (Discovery Projects, the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, Linkage Projects, Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities, Future Fellowships, Australian Laureate Fellowships, and ARC Centres of Excellence) • NHMRC supports Australian researchers to participate in multinational research, and collaborative projects with international researchers (CIRM etc)
  21. 21. Alternate collaborations • CSIRO’s international strategy with India- priority areas o sustainable agriculture o radioastronomy, o renewable technologies o livestock industries o water saving measures o mineral resources o biotechnology o • health CSIRO already has a number of established links with Indian institutions o Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) India o Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) o The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
  22. 22. Australian govt. programs • The Cooperative Research Centres program addresses challenges facing Australia. It actively encourages applicants to engage globally and has supported a number of collaborative projects with Indian partners o hearing & vision o wound management o future farm industries o environmental remediation o automotive industry • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) supports joint research focused on improving sustainable agricultural production. o wheat improvement o water management o agricultural policy
  23. 23. Acknowledgments Professor Robin Batterham Chair, Australia-India Strategic Research Fund Advisory Panel Lead, Australia India Taskforce on Science Technology Innovation Mr. Ashdin Tarapore Assistant Manager, South Asia Section
International Education & Science Division Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE)