Exploring opportunities to strengthen Australia-Indonesia research partnerships

In August 2019, the Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) and Ristekdikti (Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education) co-hosted a roundtable discussion for AIC university partners to explore ideas for strengthening and deepening bilateral links in research, education and mobility.  This post captures key points of that discussion.

Download this AIC Briefing Note, ‘Exploring opportunities to strengthen Australia-Indonesia research partnerships’, as a PDF

The higher education relationship between Australia and Indonesia is important, extensive and historic.  The relationship is illustrated through 300 memorandums of understanding between Australian and Indonesian universities.  More than 9,000 Indonesian students study in Australian universities, with many supported under the Australia Awards – the largest and longest-running international scholarships program in Indonesia.  Besides Indonesian students studying in Australia, more than 7,000 Australian students have studied in Indonesia under the New Colombo Plan. This long-standing education relationship provides a strong basis for further and deeper bilateral engagement.

Key points

Key points from the AIC-Ristekdikti roundtable discussion:

  • The transfer of skills, knowledge and capability has broad benefits, not just to the participating researchers and institutions, but also to the Australia-Indonesia relationship.  There are also economic and educational benefits that flow from Australia and Indonesia’s diverse, deep and long-standing research collaboration.
  • Our two countries have shared priorities in terms of research policy.  Like Indonesia, Australia is interested in research commercialisation. In Australia, it is industry that invests the most in research and development, and the Australian Government supports this through tax concessions.
  • The Indonesian Government’s recent move to provide tax concessions to Indonesian companies engaging in R&D is a welcome step.  Australian research organisations and researchers are well-placed to contribute their expertise to industry-led and industry-linked R&D in Indonesia.
  • The Australian Government makes a major investment in R&D that supports the development of skills and knowledge to enable economic and productivity gains.  Given this investment, it is important to have systems for the assessment of research performance. Australia assesses its research performance through Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).  In 2018, the ERA’s inaugural “Engagement and Impact Assessment” took place.  For the first time it gives government, universities, research end-users, and the broader public a detailed understanding of how Australia’s universities and their researchers are collaborating with industry, government, communities and the not-for-profit sector.
  • By encouraging mobility and collaborative relationships across international borders, all countries will improve their ability to respond to the changing and increasingly globalised research landscape.  In order for Australian funding to reach a broad spectrum of countries and researchers, all of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) funding schemes are now open to international researchers. This approach has been a successful one.  Over 77 percent of ARC funded research in 2018 involved an international research collaboration.
  • Indonesia currently ranks 22 out of all countries in terms of the number of planned research collaborations by ARC-funded researchers for projects allocated funding in 2019.  In 2019, the ARC will be funding 42 new and ongoing research projects that involve collaboration with Indonesia, under eight different funding schemes. These projects have a funding allocation of A$22.9 million in 2019.
  • Another way Australia is focused on making it easier for their researchers to collaborate is through multilateral engagement.  Indonesia is also involved in the Australia-led APEC ‘Guiding Principles for Research Integrity’ project. The final version of the APEC Guiding Principles should be circulated for endorsement among APEC economies a little later this year.
  • Australia strives to enhance the scale and scope of research collaboration between Australia and Indonesia, in partnership with colleagues at Ristekdikti.  Both will continue working at the government-to-government level to foster an enabling environment for Australia-Indonesia research collaboration.

Key Indonesian Government initiatives

  • In 2019, Indonesia allocated only 0.24 per cent of its GDP or around Rp35.7 trillion (US$2.5 billion) for research.  This fund is also spread across 45 government agencies, and only 43.7 per cent of the money is used for pure research and the rest for operations. (The Conversation Indonesia, 2019)
  • Recently, the government introduced a new law, UU SISNAS IPTEK (Law on National System), to establish an integrated national research system.  Research institutions, such as R&D units (known as litbang, from penelitian dan pengembangan) that exist in most government ministries to produce research, will be integrated.  Other institutions such as LIPI, BPPT, and BATAN are planned for integration.  The intention is to ensure that research across different fields is done more effectively and efficiently.  The change will also lead to an increase in the Research Endowment Fund under LPDP in 2020, allocated specifically for research in higher education.  The new law also includes tax incentives for industries that fund R&D activities, and the establishment of a National Research Agency.
  • Two years ago, the Government completed its Strategic Plan for Research and Technology.  The plan still stands, despite the new law. It focuses on nine areas: food and agriculture, health, energy, transport, national security, maritime industries, social science and the humanities, interdisciplinary research and a cross-sectoral theme.  Some of these are aligned with the focus of the AIC’s work.
  • Science Techno Parks (STPs) is another priority area for the Indonesian Government’s research funding.  Initiated in 2013, the parks are intended to help strengthen university–industry linkages and improve the country’s productivity and competitiveness in fields such as agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, mining and fisheries.  To date, the government has established 18 of a planned total of 100 STPs. Major obstacles threatening the achievement of this ambitious target include a lack of human resources to support the development of advanced technology.
  • Vocational Education – Ristekdikti is increasing its efforts to promote vocational education and level out the ratio between vocational and higher education, currently at 1:3, with vocational education accounting for 25 per cent of the total.  The government plans to increase this share to 50 per cent by building new institutions and strengthening the capacity of existing ones. Kalimantan and Batam are two cities where vocational education programs are already partnering with industry.

Areas for collaboration

  • The Indonesian Rectors Forum, a national body of universities, identified five areas for possible collaboration between Australia and Indonesia:
    • Joint research, conferences and publication;
    • Faculty exchanges of about one semester duration;
    • Student exchanges under the Credit Earning Activity (transferable credit) scheme for one or two semesters;
    • Dual, double or split degree programs, structured ‘2+2’ or ‘3+1’, meaning 2 or 3 years in Indonesia and 1 to 2 years in Australia;
    • Two way student mobility programs

There are funding opportunities for Indonesian lecturers to collaborate with international partners.  An example is the International Research Collaboration and Publication Scheme – this requires at least one international/overseas partner in order to apply.

It is important to enhance and to expand potential research collaborations that align with the Indonesian Government’s National Research Priorities.  For 2020-2024, under the interdisciplinary and cross sectoral themes, these priorities include: disaster management, biodiversity, stunting, and environment, water and climate change.

Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers at the AIC-Ristekdikti higher education roundtable discussion:

  • Professor Ainun Na’im Secretary General, Ristekdikti
  • Professor Ocky Karna Radjasa, Director of Research and Community Services, Ristekdikti
  • Elizabeth Campbell-Dorning, Counselor (Education and Science), Department of Education
  • Prof Asep Saefuddin Vice Chair, Indonesian Rectors Forum, (also Rector of Al Azhar University)
  • Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, Monash University

Facilitator: Helen Brown, AIC Digital Economy Fellow

Further reading