As an industrialised nation, Australia has a highly developed and wide-ranging science sector. The primary research target of the Australian government is closer collaboration between the public research institution and industry. Cooperation with Germany on education and research is moving forward in a very positive way.

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© Hans-Jörg Stähle / DLR

Funding opportunities

In principle, subsidies can be granted as part of the bilateral cooperation in research and education between Germany and Australia to support new contacts, develop international priority research projects and flank international projects in priority areas.

As a general rule, support will be given in the form of mobility aid and, in special cases, grants. This means that the International Bureau (IB) subsidises the travel costs of German project participants to Australia and their accommodation costs in that country. Applications for mobility projects can only be submitted during certain periods following a prior funding announcement. These announcements are not regular. The formal application must be submitted in parallel together with the foreign partner to the IB and to the competent authority of the partner country.

Political framework

The high importance historically attached to the European dimension in Australian education and research led to Australia being the first country to sign a science and technology agreement with the European Union in 1994. The partnership between Australia and Germany in particular dates back to an intergovernmental agreement that was signed in 1974.

In education, there is an additional agreement between the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). Other agreements are in place between the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Priorities of the cooperation

Scientific and technological cooperation with Australia encompasses three complementary areas:

  • Exchange of students and young scientists via the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the German Research Community (DFG), which creates a hub for projects and long-term cooperation.
  • “Mobility projects” run by the International Bureau and the DAAD (“project-based personnel exchange programmes”, PPP) for the initiation and preparation of joint research projects: workshops, conferences and reciprocal visits by specialist delegations.

The main focus for cooperation is on bilateral research agreements in the fields of

  • Environmental research and technologies
  • Marine and Antarctic research
  • Health research
  • Renewable energies
  • Raw material security

A particular focus is on giving stronger support to young scientists.

Highlights of the bilateral cooperation

In December 2014, a delegation led by the Federation Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) travelled to Australia in order to hold talks on the future design of the scientific and technological cooperation. A future focus of the cooperation is to be on innovation, such as the collaboration of German research clusters with their Australian equivalents. Both countries view the involvement of young scientists as important.

Successful university collaboration

One important element of the German-Australian partnership is cooperation between universities. According to the Higher Education Compass produced by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), there are currently 521 collaborative agreements in place between German and Australian universities (as at March 2015). In the Asia-Pacific region, German universities only have a greater number of collaborative agreements with China and Japan.

The most important tool in bilateral university collaboration is the exchange of students and scientists, primarily funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). By now, the DAAD has been able to extend the exchange programme with the Group of Eight, the eight most important Australian universities, which was launched in 2008, to more than 30 of the 39 Australian universities in an agreement with Universities Australia, the umbrella organisation of Australian universities signed in December 2014.

Australian scientists are among the most successful applicants for the programmes of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2014, the foundation awarded 27 research scholarships and two research prizes to Australian scientists.

Within the BMBF-funded scheme “German Research Presence in Asia”, TU Braunschweig and the University of New South Wales set up a German-Australian research group in Sydney in 2009 to work in a multidisciplinary team on "Sustainable Production and Life Cycle Management", developing knowledge and technical solutions over the whole production cycle.

Since the end of 2012, the German Research Association (DFG) has funded the first German-Australian graduate college on “Molecular pathogenesis of male reproductive disorders” between the University of Gießen and Monash University in Melbourne. In this programme, PhD students are also carrying out research in the other partner’s country over a longer period. Similar projects are in the pipeline.

The role of the International Bureau

In addition to the projects of TU Braunschweig and the University of New South Wales in the BMBF-funded scheme “German Research Presence in Asia”, the IB is sponsoring two more projects with Australia within this programme, between TU Dresden and the University of Adelaide in the field of Translational Medicine, and between the University of Mannheim and Queensland University of Technology on Business Computer Science.

Multilateral cooperation

“Connecting Australian-European Science and Innovation Excellence” (CAESIE) was a bilateral partnership project between the EU and Australia. The aim of the project, which was supported by the EU Commission, was to support and develop cooperation in academia, technology and innovation. CAESIE focused particularly on cooperation between SMEs and the scientific community, with the aim of bringing them together to work to find solutions to the following social problems: clean energy, healthcare technologies for an ageing society and sustainable urban development.

The project was coordinated by the DLR Project Management Agency, a department of the German Centre for Aviation and Space Travel. The Australian partners were the Department of Industry & Science (DIS), the Australian Industrial Research Group (AIRG) and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Other European partners included the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). CAESIE is advised by eight representatives from science, politics and business. The BMBF and the FhG were represented on this committee.