France's peak government scientific research organisation, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and French maritime technology and shipbuilding company Naval Group have successfully signed a letter of intent (LoI) with South Australian universities, including Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia, to develop a research and industrial base for what would be one of only five industry-linked CNRS international joint laboratories in the world.
The undertaking is one of a number of significant defence-associated education and research commitments being sealed this week in Canberra during the visit of the Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Frédérique Vidal. The initiative builds on successful collaborations between the three South Australian universities and CNRS research laboratories, such as Lab-STICC in Brittany.
Flinders University vice-chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the combined strength of three world-class universities located in South Australia makes Adelaide an ideal location for the laboratory: "This is yet more evidence of South Australia being an unbeatable place to do business – by drawing on the specific research fortes of each university we collectively provide an unrivaled capacity in advanced research."
University of South Australia vice chancellor Professor David Lloyd said that the decision to create the Joint Laboratory is a visionary and very welcome initiative by the CNRS and Naval Group CEOs.
"This is a landmark opportunity to boost both Australian-French scientific co-operation and Australian sovereign technical capability in a range of key areas, including those that connect human factors with the physical aspects of maritime vehicles in novel ways," Professor Lloyd said.
University of Adelaide vice-chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said he welcomes further international collaboration with CNRS, Naval Group and industry: "The intersection of autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and human factors is one of the key frontiers of research today – areas we are pursuing with vigour. The opportunity to collaborate with some of France’s brightest minds on this frontier promises exciting outcomes."
Naval Group vice president of international R&D cooperation François Duthoit welcomed the continuing collaboration between Australia and France, saying, "The establishment of the laboratory is one of the key pillars of this commitment and will provide us with opportunities to collaborate with our Australian university and R&D partners in the areas of autonomous systems, human factors and artificial intelligence."
Alongside academics from within the three South Australian universities, the joint laboratory will be able to draw on relevant expertise across CNRS’s 33,000 researchers as well as Naval Group experts.