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[ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA] Representatives of the Asia–Pacific economies have agreed to establish closer ties between universities and research centres that would promote mobility for researchers and education providers. The aim is to promote technological innovation and economic development in the region.

Leaders of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies, including Chile, Indonesia, and Malaysia, agreed to promote high-quality education services, strengthen regional ties and facilitate skill transfers at the APEC forum in Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast, last week (2–9 September).

Given that many developing economies in the region are moving to more knowledge-intensive, value-added manufacturing, "access to a wide range of quality higher educational services is critical for sustainable growth on this development pathway," says the APEC leaders' declaration on Promoting Cross-Border Education Cooperation.

The agreement to encourage mobility envisages measures such as transparent visa regimes and developing joint research projects, as well as better provision of data on educational programmes and increasing the flexibility of courses — for example, offering online options.

The policy focus of cooperative education and research should be on developing human capital and solving social problems in the region, according to APEC.

Earlier this year APEC formed a Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation, to foster public-private partnerships involving governments, scientists and businesses. The move was also aimed at increasing innovation and using new technologies to solve regional problems.

Indonesia and New Zealand agreed at the Vladivostok forum to host a meeting of APEC science advisors under the partnership next year. The aim of the meeting is to advance strategic science and innovation relationships amongst APEC members.

"We have limited budget for research, and people do not pay much attention to science, technology and innovation," Tiomega Gultom, the deputy director of International S&T Network Development Program and Analysis for the Ministry of Research and Technology of Indonesia (MoRT) told SciDev.Net. She added that the policy partnership initiative may help to make science, technology, and innovation become "an integral or an essential part for the implementation of development in Indonesia".

APEC could be funding collaboration of researchers in areas of common concerns, such as renewable energy, food security and agriculture, global warming, and disaster mitigation, Gultom said. But she added that so far, APEC has only funded capacity building through workshop and seminars and has not provided scholarship for degree studies or research funding.

Several APEC officials said the broader goal of cooperation on education and innovation policy was to help achieve a regional trade agreement that will allow free cross-border flow of capital, people, ideas, goods and services.

Link to APEC Leaders' declaration on Promoting Cross-Border Education Cooperation

Additional reporting by Joel D. Adriano.