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By  Claire Power 26 September 2023 3 min read

Key points

  • By creating opportunities for scientific collaboration, we’re building on our longstanding friendships in Southeast Asia.
  • Our science is helping us solve common challenges and collaborate on shared opportunities in our neighbourhood.
  • We're working together to end plastic waste, share knowledge, and grow innovation across countries in Southeast Asia.

Neighbours. Everybody needs good ones. While our geography makes us natural neighbours, Australia and the countries of Southeast Asia are also good friends. We have long-standing connections which span family, business, education, tourism and importantly, science.

As Australia's national science agency, we tackle our nation's greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. We work with partners across the world and our science is helping to solve global challenges and drive collaboration on shared opportunities.

Amelia Fyfield is our science counsellor based in Singapore. She said we’re playing an important role in delivering science diplomacy for Australia.

“The region’s success is our success,” Amelia said.

“If we understand and partner with our regional friends, collectively we can use innovation, science, and technology to shape a more sustainable and prosperous world.”

Here are three ways we’re using science to build on our long-standing friendships with our neighbours.

Creating a clean, safe and healthy region

There are no international borders in the natural world. We’re working with partners in Southeast Asia to strengthen natural resource management to protect plant, animal, and human health. We want to enhance the resilience, sustainable use, and value of our natural and built environments. 

We’re also working with national and international partners to solve the plastic problem. Our Ending Plastic Waste Mission aims to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 2030. 

Through our Indo-Pacific Plastics Innovation Network we connect with researchers, innovators, and investors. Together, we're redefining the life cycle of plastic and reducing waste in the environment. This network has innovation hubs in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. We’re also supporting entrepreneurs with incubator and accelerator programs designed to change plastic problems into profitable and sustainable solutions.

Our Aquawatch pilot sites connect countries in Southeast Asia to our global network. These monitor and forecast water quality to inform local water management. For example, our pilot site in Malaysia is using AquaWatch to monitor dissolved carbon loss from mangrove forests in Sarawak.

Greenhope were the 2022 winners of IPPIN's Indonesia Hub Demo Day. The Indonesian startup is developing new technology that transforms sustainably sourced cassava into biodegradable bioplastic. To date, Greenhope have improved the livelihoods of nearly 200 farming families and successfully replaced 12 billion pieces of conventional plastic

Opening doors to sharing knowledge, technology and data

Through our international data fellowship program, we’re sharing our expertise in data, AI and cyber to help address data-related challenges in Southeast Asia.

Our Data 4 Development (D4D) Fellowship program is delivered in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The program focuses on building capacity in data and design. It also facilitates locally led innovation and solutions. It is being piloted in Indonesia and will bring qualified Indonesian civil servants to Australia. Here, they'll work with our data and digital specialist arm, Data61 over the course of a three-month fellowship. 

By partnering Indonesian data specialists with our own research and engineering experts, we’re opening the doors to knowledge sharing.

Growing innovation and local startups

Southeast Asia and Australia share growth prospects. We’re working to build innovation skills and tap into opportunities across the region. Maximising our shared growth potential is also a key focus of Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, launched in September this year.

We’re managing the Aus4Innovation partnership in Vietnam, which boasts the third-highest rate of startups in Southeast Asia.

Kim Wimbush is our science counsellor based in Vietnam. He said 15 teams of researchers from Australian universities have partnered with Vietnamese counterparts.

Our Aus4Innovation team are working to bring Australian and Vietnamese teams together to explore emerging areas of technology and digital transformation.

Through these partnerships, we’re working to bring Australian and Vietnamese teams together to explore emerging areas of technology and digital transformation. Researchers are trialling new models for partnerships between public and private sector institutions. Through our work, we're strengthening Vietnamese capability in digital foresight, scenario planning, commercialisation, and innovation policy.

Through our myriad programs, innovation is flowing between both countries. And that’s how neighbours become good friends.

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