Science

French innovation minister strengthens bonds during UNSW campus visit

(From left) Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frederique Vidal, Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak, and Director of the Europe of Research and International Cooperation Department Dr. Patrick
Friday, 4 May, 2018
Louise Caldicott

UNSW Sydney has hosted the French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Frédérique Vidal, and her senior research delegation, to strengthen collaboration in solar and space.

The visit to the UNSW campus follows the signing of two key agreements this week. Vice-Chancellor and President Ian Jacobs signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France’s largest government research organisation, to progress joint research in sustainable energy, and a Letter of Intent with the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French Space Agency to progress research on remote sensor satellites to monitor the health of coral reefs in rising ocean temperatures.

In addition to the two agreements, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd (SQC), a company partly owned by UNSW, and the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (the CEA), announced plans for a new collaboration to develop the world’s first quantum computer.

During the visit to campus, Vidal met with some of UNSW’s most globally renowned experts to discuss the deepening of technological, educational and industry partnerships.

Scientia Professor Martin Green, Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, presented on UNSW’s leading research in solar silicon cells – breaking the world records in PV efficiency for 30 of the last 35 years; and Australian of the Year and Laureate Fellow Professor Michelle Simmons spoke of her groundbreaking work at the Centre for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology (CQC2T).

Vidal was impressed by UNSW’s leading experts on climate change, including Associate Professor Katrin Meissner, Director of the Climate Change Research Centre, and work led by Professor Russell Boyce, Chair of Space Engineering at UNSW Canberra.

Vidal noted that of each area of cooperation agreed between Australia and France during the visit of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to Sydney this week was an area of leadership represented at UNSW.

To build on research and education collaboration, Vidal, formerly a University President herself, also emphasised the importance of student exchanges, internships and research at both undergraduate and PhD level. She highlighted the value of public and private collaborators to move research to the market.

“For me higher education, research and innovation are closely related,” Vidal said. “The idea is to work to improve links between France and Australia around higher education programs to support very high-level research within universities, but also supporting links between universities, research and companies through innovation.”

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), who led the delegation for UNSW, commented: “This visit enabled us to showcase UNSW research capabilities, particularly in the areas of science, technology and engineering, to our valued French delegates. These types of successful partnerships really help collaboration between Australia and France to advance sustainable energy and support climate change efforts globally.”

The French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Frederique Vidal during the visit.