Australia is about as far away from Europe as one can get. This vast distance had historically made it challenging to build concrete long term relationships and undertake joint scientific projects with European researchers. However, the Australian Government and the European Union have co-funded the over €1 million FEAST Extension, Enhancement and Demonstration (FEED) project which has been pivotal in supporting the exchange of best practices as well as promoting cutting edge research between both continents.
FEED began on 1 May 2008 and builds on the previous work of the Forum for European-Australian Science and Technology cooperation (FEAST). FEAST itself has defined and promoted a model for international research cooperation facilitation that has been rolled out on a wider scale by the EU.
Over 50 months, the FEED project has defined and demonstrated new, more strategic and policy-related approaches to fostering a truly international research and innovation system. It pioneered the application of a suite of methods and technical tools such as bibliometric studies that use sophisticated software to map collaborative activity. Detailed story-driven surveys were also developed, gathering unprecedented information on the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) engagement process.
Discussion papers and op-eds were disseminated and raised much awareness about issues related to international collaboration as well as the FEED project. In addition, partnerships were developed, such as workshops held in conjunction with the Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS), leading to excellent engagement and feedback from participants.
Finally, the notion of interoperability was enhanced by organising an international symposium that brought together world-leading experts in science and innovation policy from Europe, North America, and Australasia. They debated and discussed the notion of interoperability, which can be defined as easing the process of research across and between funding systems across the globe.
FEED also accentuated tools previously developed by FEAST such as the website which provides a wealth of information about engaging with the FP7. It is in essence a portal of reference for European-Australian S&T cooperation, containing comprehensive information about fellowship opportunities, awards and positions in both the EU and Australia. It also contains details of all relevant events and seminars. The project also deploys a help desk, acting as the contact point in assisting Australian researchers in all FP7-related issues.
“FEED has helped bring together European and Australian researchers in emerging research areas where there were clear opportunities for pooling resources, capabilities and knowledge,” said Dr Rado Faletič, coordinator of the FEED project. “These collaborations have delivered results in various fields such as health and information and communication technologies.”
FEED encapsulates international cooperation as it has attracted highly skilled third country nationals and partners to participate in European research projects funded by FP7 in a way that no single Member State could have done by itself. The notion of interoperability described above is enhancing the international aspect even further.
The FEED project will end in June 2012. However, Dr Faletič is confident that further funding will be secured and assures us that the next phase will be “broader and more innovative” than previously.