As a long-standing partner of three universities in the Adelaide region, IMT Atlantique wishes to pursue and develop this collaboration. It is currently hosting some fifteen Australian students for a "summer school".
From mid-January, IMT Atlantique will be hosting about fifteen Australian students on its Brest campus, at Bachelor or Master 1 level, for a 'summer school' called Wasaa (Western Alliance for Scientific Actions with Australia). The programme includes courses (robotics, AI, human-computer interaction, virtual reality, etc.), conferences and company visits, as well as cultural and sporting activities.
Wasaa is run by a consortium of five Breton institutions (ENIB, ENSTA Bretagne, UBO, UBS and IMT Atlantique), in conjunction with three universities in the Adelaide region (1). Launched in 2019, the initiative was interrupted for two years due to Covid - before resuming this year.
Costs are shared between the French partners, the Australian universities and the students, and exchange semesters are also a possibility for French students.
Collaboration includes co-supervised PhD students
"Australia is an important partner for us," explains Stéphane Roy, head of International Relations and Academic Partnerships at IMT Atlantique. "It is a country with which we have long-standing ties. And it is a very popular destination for our students." The first contacts go back a dozen years. The signing of a well-known France-Australia submarine agreement in 2016 amplified the movement, which included "offsets" for Naval Group, higher education and research.
In addition to the summer school, the cooperation is based on two other important projects. The first is an international research laboratory, set up with the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), Naval Group and the three Adelaide universities. Objective number one: to offer our research professors the possibility of developing new collaboration opportunities with a view to knowledge creation, educational purposes (joint doctorates, for example) and industrial research projects. A programme of work, particularly on human/machine interconnection and autonomous objects, is currently being developed. Some ten doctoral students are already doing their thesis in partnership thanks to co-supervision agreements.
Many avenues for cooperation
An international "Industry of the Future" chaire (research collaboration), involving the Brittany Region and the University of South Australia, has also been created. It is headed by a research professor from IMT Atlantique, based in Brest. "The aim is to create a link between the areas of expertise of IMT Atlantique and our Australian partners. And, subsequently, to imagine new bilateral projects," says Stéphane Roy. Launched in 2021, the French part of the chaire has a budget of around €1 million over five years - but there may be additional funding may be in the future, in particular through European projects.
There is a shared desire to further develop this partnership. The working themes remain to be defined. Several subjects have already been identified: quantum, cyber security, the environment, nuclear waste storage, etc. "Clearly, there is a lot of complementarity between our institutions," says Stéphane Roy. For their part, the students are highly motivated. And there is no shortage of potential funding." After a prospecting mission in Australia last November, IMT Atlantique will soon welcome a delegation of research professors from Adelaide, with the prospect of further intensifying cooperation.
(1) University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia.
Stéphane Roy: "We want to amplify what works well
- What do you gain from the cooperation with the Australian universities in Adelaide?
A large proportion of our publications are produced in partnership with leading institutions in major countries - Germany, the United States, Japan, etc. This is a guarantee that our research is very healthy. With Australia, we have made good progress. The level is equivalent to ours. We might as well continue and expand what is working well. We are looking to develop flagship projects. Our new doctoral school, SPIN (Sciences for Engineering and Digital Technology), for example, wants to strengthen its international presence.
- Has the termination of the submarine contract affected your collaboration?
Science continues to move forward, regardless of geo-political uncertainties. Moreover, Naval Group remains present in Australia. And the French Department of Foreign Affairs views our cooperation favourably.
- How are relations with your Australian colleagues?
The Australians are pragmatic and efficient. Together we produce good theses and publications. We have known each other for a long time. And we enjoy getting together.
by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT