An Australia-UK Strategic Alliance on Research and Innovation

27 September 2023

Australia and the United Kingdom’s leading research universities have signed a formal agreement to increase two-way research collaboration, boost commercialisation activity and build trusted partnerships in areas of sensitive research.

The signing of the "Australia-UK Strategic Alliance on Research and Innovation" follows a series of dialogues between the Group of Eight and the Russell Group, the most recent held in Sydney this week, aimed at leveraging the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement and advancing research engagement around AUKUS Pillar II priorities.

Increasing two-way research collaboration is not only key to boosting trade and investment to support the economic growth of both nations,but alsocritical to delivering the advanced capabilities identified under Pillar 2 of AUKUS, including Artificial Intelligence, Undersea Capabilities and Quantum Technologies.

University research is fundamental to achieving our bilateral goals and our ability to remain competitive in a world increasingly driven by knowledge and technology, and in which protecting national security has become paramount.

This agreement will shape our engagement with our respective governments to leverage opportunities provided by the A-UKFTA, and address identified barriers to greater research collaboration.

Research security and AUKUS related research engagement are both top priorities for our world class universities.

Commenting, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

"The UK and Australia have many long-standing and close ties, and our research sectors are no exception. The Russell Group and Group of Eight represent 32 of the world’s leading research-intensive universities, renowned not just for their research excellence but also for the high-level skills they develop for our respective economies and for their strengths in turning research into innovation.

"At a time when research partnerships with like-minded countries are more important than ever, and with the world’s first innovation chapter in our Free Trade Agreement, it is vital to build upon what has already been achieved. Strengthening collaborations between our universities will benefit science, research and innovation in both our countries, will enhance UK-Australia resilience in an uncertain world and boost prospects for sustainable economic growth.

"Our two organisations stand ready to work with each other and with our governments to seize new opportunities and respond to new challenges together."

Professor Mark Scott, Group of Eight Deputy Chair and Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, said:

"Collaboration is the kindling that ignites innovation, it is when we work together that we can achieve the breakthroughs and progress the world needs. We all share the same challenges - fast-paced changes in technology, climate, geopolitics, and more – and it is more crucial than ever for us to work together to be at the forefront of knowledge creation, enabled by a strong research strategy.

"This agreement means we can expand and accelerate the sharing of important information, deepen our two-way research links, build research capacity and partner on commercialisation and sustainable research."

Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Group of Eight, said:

"The Go8 recognises that protecting our sensitive research from rapidly evolving threats in a complex global environment must be a priority. We will continue to  work with our respective Governments and security agencies to develop effective and risk-based measures to protect future international collaborations, prevent unnecessarily restrictive measures and ensure our nations remain open to the world.

"It is the high-quality, world class research conducted in our universities that will address the global challenges we face, such as climate change, food and water security, global pandemics, and national security issues, and underpin the future success and prosperity of both our nations.

"Further collaboration between Australian and UK research intensive universities is important given the UK’s recent association to Horizon Europe, arguably the world’s most significant research and innovation funding program at €95.5 billion. The Go8 urges the Australian Government to likewise seek to associate with Horizon Europe to share in the benefits of the world’s largest research fund.”

Professor Shearer West CBE, Deputy Chair of the Russell Group and President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, said:

"The recent agreement between the UK Government and the European Union on Association with the Horizon Europe research programme provides British universities with an excellent opportunity to reconnect with the European research community. However, if there is a lesson from the last period of uncertainty for UK institutions, it is the significance of our bilateral relationships with international partner nations such as Australia who share our values and commitment to research collaboration.

"We are delighted to be announcing this new Strategic Alliance between the Group of 8 and the Russell Group. Although our institutions are on the other side of the globe from each other, our collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the enormous potential of "24-hour science" to be a real point of distinction to collaborations between UK and Australian universities."

Notes

The Go8 and the Russell Group are their country’s key representative body for world-class research-intensive universities, with the eight members of the Go8 accounting for more than 70 per cent of Australia’s university research activity, and, comparably, the 24 members of the Russell Group producing 68 per cent of the UK’s university research activity. The world class research undertaken by the Group of Eight and Russell Group is critical to the economic future of both countries.

Policy area

Related case studies