EU bats for science cooperation with South-East Asia

Copyright: Piotr Malecki / Panos

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  • Collaboration and mobility of researchers are important for career development
  • Increased research cooperation will boost economic relationship of both regions
  • Common ground and shared interest are important for collaboration to really work

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[BANGKOK] The European Community is batting for increased scientific cooperation and cross-border exchanges of researchers with South-East Asia, which has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing regions.

In recent twin conferences in Singapore (11 November) and Bangkok, Thailand (13 November), the European Commission’s directorate-general for research and innovation, Anna Karaoglou, emphasised the importance of research and collaboration between the two regions and the mobility of researchers for career development.

The conferences were organised by the European Commission through Euraxess Links, which is part of the Euraxess services network that provides access to information and support services to researchers.

Euraxess Links started in 2006 in the United States before expanding to other countries such as Brazil, China, India and Japan.  Linkage with the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began with Singapore in 2012, Thailand in 2013, and Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam just recently.  

“We have to acknowledge that being a researcher is not an easy career choice. You have to fight for funding and vacancies, and you will encounter mobility obstacles when moving jobs. It is our task to make the research profession as attractive as possible,” Karaoglou said.

She said that through the twin conferences, European and South-East Asian researchers could come together to share information and knowledge, enabling more of them to travel between the two regions.

According to organisers, the conferences offer European and ASEAN researchers opportunities to learn from each other and to build on their strengths in knowledge creation and innovation through collaboration and researcher mobility. Such increase in cooperation will further strengthen the economic relationship of both regions.

“By opening up European research funding, Europe can generate more research excellence,” Karaoglou said. “If researchers are working on the same fields, they can collaborate on research projects. They can put together a proposal for a partnership within a consortium.”

She noted that ASEAN researchers are most active in the areas of health, knowledge-based economy and the environment.

European Union Ambassador to Singapore Michael Pulch pointed out that while Europe is one of the world’s leading areas of science and research, “we need cooperation to tackle major global challenges and to ensure sustainable economic development”.

“Sizeable challenges such as climate change, securing a stable supply of energy and feeding the global population can only be tackled with global action and cooperation,” Pulch noted.

Alfred Huan, executive director of the Singapore-based Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Graduate Academy, agreed that it is important to promote talent accessibility and mobility so that knowledge and innovation can progress.

But Thailand’s minister for science and technology, Pichet Durongkaveroj, explains to SciDev.Net that for collaboration to really work, it is important to look for common ground and shared interest or vision.

“You need to look beyond competition and see it within the context of co-prosperity among member countries,” he says.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.