New Delhi, Jan 15 (PTI) Australia is increasingly engaging with India’s educational and research institutions to address several global issues ranging from food security to climate change, according Australian officials and scientists. Also Read - 'Shukriya Bharat': Bhutanese Girl Thanks India For Sending COVID-19 Vaccines, Video Is Too Cute to Miss | Watch

Last year, representatives from a number of top Australian universities travelled to India to sign numerous Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) for joint PhDs, exchange programmes, as well as research collaborations. Also Read - Coronavirus: Bhutan Announces Nationawide Lockdown For 7 Days From Wednesday

According to Louise McSorley, Counsellor for Education and Research at the Australian High Commission here, the ‘India Economic Strategy to 2035’ report focused Australia’s attention on India in a way that has never happened before. Also Read - China Continues Construction Along Indo-Tibet Border; Crosses India's Red Lines Drawn During Doklam Standoff

The report, commissioned by the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, outlines steps to transform Australia’s relationship with India, and take the economic partnership between the two countries to a new level.

“The growth of the economy here has excited interest in Australia — not just in education but across the board. People are seeing opportunities of collaboration to solve the real grand challenges of the world like food sustainability, climate change, and immigrant security,” McSorley told PTI.

“We do have similar problems of climate, managing populations, building smart cities, agricultural challenges,” McSorley said, adding that collaborations between the “best and brightest” minds of both countries were a win-win for both India and Australia.

In a written reply to a Lok Sabha question earlier this month, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Satya Pal Singh, noted that there is a growing collaboration between Australian and Indian institutions on joint research projects and PhD programmes in areas of mutual interest.

Under the newly initiated Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) programme, 157 joint research proposals between reputed Indian and Australian institutions have been received and are in the process of approval, Singh said.

Data from 2016 showed that there were over 340 formal agreements between Australian and Indian universities and institutes which included research collaborations, academic and student exchange and other links.

“Over the past two years, we have seen a strong growth in collaborations for joint research between Australian and Indian universities, including the development of joint PhD programmes,” Geraldine Gante, First Secretary, Public Affairs at Australian High Commission told PTI.

For example, Australia’s University of Queensland has a partnership with IIT Delhi for joint research and a joint PhD programme, while Swinburne University of Technology has a similar agreement with IIT Hyderabad for joint research and a joint PhD programme.

Western Sydney University Vice Chancellor and President Barney Glover said that universities have the capacity to collaborate across boundaries in ways that governments find difficult to do.

“We have a number of projects and partnerships with Indian institutions, focused on the Himalayas,” Glover told PTI.

Over 1.9 billion people rely on the water from the Himalayas — an extremely important region vulnerable to climate change. However, it is often hard for countries of this region to collaborate effectively.

However, universities can collaborate across those political barriers, Glover said.

Universities of eight countries of the Hindu-Kush region, including China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, and Nepal are working together to address climate change issues, which could devastate the region if left unaddressed.

“What excites me about university collaborations between India and Australia is that researchers (of both countries) are often similarly fearless in trying to tackle the really challenging problems in new ways,” said David Rooney, a professor at Macquarie University.

He added that the cultural diversities within both countries can add vibrancy to “an emerging intellectual problem solving ecosystem.” Gante added that the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) has been the centrepiece of the bilateral science relationship.

Jointly funded by Australian and Indian Governments, the AISRF has supported over 300 activities including collaborative research projects, workshops and fellowships since 2006.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.