British and Australian universities launch research cooperation committee

In a letter to the British and Australian foreign ministers, the Russell Group and the Group of Eight announced they would use a new free trade agreement to find ways to enhance research partnerships

The UK’s Russell Group and the Australian Group of Eight (Go8) have announced a new committee to explore research collaboration between their collective 32 members.

The new committee seeks to “find new ways of delivering ground-breaking research, increase trade, investment and boost both countries’ economies,” the universities pledged.

The Russell Group said the recently concluded UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) provided the universities “a fantastic opportunity” to strengthen their academic ties.

The two groups reportedly account for 68% and 70% of UK and Australian university research activity, respectively. In the five years to 2020, measured using the number of university co-publications, Australia and the UK were one another’s fifth and third-biggest academic partners, respectively. The Go8 produced 29,123 co-publications with Russell Group universities between 2016-2020.

The committee will explore shared research strengths, remove “barriers to commercialisation” and eradicate bureaucracy through shared intellectual property rights and data-sharing agreements. The universities also want to increase student and researcher mobility, minimising travel restrictions.

Fostering stronger partnerships with like-minded countries through agreements such as the Australia-UK FTA and the trilateral AUKUS partnership is essential in this era of geopolitical change
– Vicki Thomson, Go8

Details of the joint committee were shared in a letter to the British and Australian foreign ministers, Liz Truss and Marise Payne, signed by Prof Margaret Gardner, chair of Go8, and Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell, chair of the Russell Group.

The two foreign ministers counterparts met last month in Sydney as the countries concluded the FTA and embarked on the trilateral AUKUS defence and security partnership.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said the universities “were excited…to explore how the free trade agreement could help bring down barriers to talent flow and enhance research and commercial activity between our two countries”.

“We will be looking at our shared national priorities and at disciplines where we have world-leading and complementary research strengths such as in the social sciences, AI, cleantech or health,” added Dr Bradshaw.

“Fostering stronger partnerships with like-minded countries through agreements such as the Australia-UK FTA and the trilateral AUKUS partnership is essential in this era of geopolitical change,” said Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Go8. “The Go8-Russell Group alliance will cement and expand our bilateral partnerships, delivering world-class education, cutting edge research outcomes and commercialisation opportunities to support economic growth and social wellbeing.”

The Russell Group represents 24 universities in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Go8 represents eight of Australia’s oldest universities.


Read more: Higher education delivers 70% of UK’s education exports revenue

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