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Follow up on the AFRAN Forum 2022

The AFRAN Forum held on 7 and 8 December at the Swinburne University of Technology demonstrated the great interest of French and Australian organisations for research and innovation cooperation.

The theme chosen this year, Innovative Planet, aimed to integrate the main areas of bilateral cooperation as redefined in the joint communiqué published at the occasion of the meeting between the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron, in July 2022. The three components of this communiqué, defence and security, resilience and climate action, and education and culture, are in fact related to the challenges of innovation for the planet, with in mind our sustainable development goals, such as the energy transition, global health, environmental management, climate change, conservation of ecosystems, or geostrategic issues…

  • A Strong support from strategic players

At both institutional and academic level, the Forum benefited from high-level speakers. The Swinburne University of Technology was represented at its highest level, highlighting its cutting-edge research and willingness to collaborate with France. The Ambassador of France to Australia, Mr. Jean-Pierre Thébault, and the Ambassador of Australia to France, Mrs. Gillian Bird, participated via a pre-recorded video, in order to recall the interest for our two countries of research and innovation collaboration, and the activities of the embassies and AFRAN in this area. The scientific and academic attaché and the agricultural advisor of the Embassy of France n Australia, were able to promote their agendas for bilateral cooperation. A session with the AFRAN France Hub from the Australian Embassy in France gave the floor to its First Counsellor and Ambassador of Australia to UNESCO and to its First Secretary to present Australia’s priorities in terms of scientific collaboration with France.

Major research institutions were well represented. The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) was particularly present, with, among others, the intervention of Prof Jean-Paul Toutain, Regional Director of the CNRS Office for Oceania, Prof Jean-Philippe Diguet, Director of the International Franco-Australian on human-machine collaboration, and Prof Francois Aguey-Zinsou, Co-Director of the CNRS French-Australian research network FACES. The National Institute for Research in Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) was represented by Dr Jean-François Hocquette, in charge of scientific cooperation in Australia and New Zealand.

Finally, many directors of research institutes or academic laboratories were present, including in the keynote speeches Dr Gilbert Brunet, Scientific Director and Head of the Group for Science and Innovation at the Bureau of Meteorology, and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Group of the World Meteorological Organization, and Aude Vignelles, Director of Technology at the Australian Space Agency.

  • Discussion topics chosen to strengthen Franco-Australian exchanges

The various sessions of the Forum brought together institutions, universities, government agencies, and industry around technical discussions in the fields of hydrogen, agriculture, space, health, low-emission technologies, or digital and human. They also provided an opportunity to explore opportunities for collaboration and to exchange views on research and innovation ecosystems, demonstrating the interest and commitment of the various actors in bilateral cooperation. Some themes emerged:

An important topic of discussion concerned exchanges on French and Australian research and innovation ecosystems, with a panel entirely dedicated to tools for strengthening collaborations, and also exchanges on this subject during panels in the fields of space, agriculture, or low emissions technologies. The challenges identified are:

  • There is no joint funding mechanisms between France and Australia,

  • Differences in laboratory structures, since mixed laboratory is an unknown concept in Australia,

  • Differences of academic systems, where cotutelles and CIFRE PhD are difficult to oset up,

  • Differences in mechanisms promoting the dynamism of education-research-industry ecosystems.

Another strategic theme was climate change adaptation, particularly for agricultural, food and water management systems, low-emission technologies and energy transition. A keynote address and three panel discussions were devoted to these themes, highlighting the strong dynamism in this sector and the interest for international collaborations to accelerate the research and deployment of new technologies and sustainable practices

Watch (or rewatch!) the opening session, keynotes speeches, and 7 discussion panels, on youtube!


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