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A guide to undertaking international collaboration

We offer a range of funding and incentive programs to encourage collaboration on science.

If you’re thinking about establishing an international collaboration with our support, this advice can help you plan and manage for success.

Overseas Counsellors Network support for international collaboration

Our Overseas Counsellors Network engages with industry and research institutions to:

  • encourage collaboration through Australian Government initiatives
  • support Australian industry to innovate and expand in key growth sectors overseas

We have counsellors in:

  • Beijing
  • Brussels
  • New Delhi
  • Tokyo
  • Washington DC

Learn more about how to contact our counsellors and our engagement overseas.

Planning and negotiating a collaboration

Before you initiate an international collaboration, consider why you want an international partner. What will drive your collaboration? What are your goals?

Once you’ve determined these, identify your collaboration partners including any finance or funding bodies. Consider what each might contribute to the collaboration.

Learn as much as you can about your potential partner organisation and their country. Your aims and priorities should align with your partner’s. You may need to consider differences in:

  • ethical norms
  • political influence or interference
  • academic freedom
  • censorship
  • policy and strategy agendas

Set up a strong dialogue with your potential partner early to avoid future issues.

Establishing the partnership

Once you’ve decided to partner, establish your roles and determine what rights and responsibilities each partner will have. Discuss how you will share finance and resources.

Make sure you understand and can navigate your partner’s organisational structure. Try to be aware of any internal agendas or politics and decide how you will work with these.

You should:

  • outline a clear strategic vision for the collaboration
  • determine how long the collaboration will last
  • develop and agree on an agenda
  • create a strategy to encourage collaboration at all levels of the organisation

Document all your decisions in writing.

Manage intellectual property

Seek advice from your legal advisers and IP authorities before you decide:

  • who owns the program’s intellectual property (IP)
  • who has commercialisation rights
  • how your research outcomes will be disseminated

Learn how your partner organisation manages, protects and shares data, including sensitive data. Their information management should meet the necessary standards. If your organisation has intellectual property policies and procedures, consider how these will apply within the collaboration.

We strongly recommend you:

  • formalise IP and commercialisation decisions in a written agreement
  • sign non-disclosure agreements with all parties

IP Australia support

You can learn more about international intellectual property and protecting your rights from IP Australia’s guides to understanding IP.

IP Australia’s IP Counsellor to China can provide help to Australian businesses navigating the Chinese intellectual property system.

Contact Australia’s IP Counsellor to China and learn more about protecting IP in China.

Managing the collaboration

  • Set evaluation timeframes and milestones to measure progress. We recommend you develop a strategy for continual improvement within the collaboration.
  • Plan your recruitment. You might be able to take secure research support through early career research or exchange programs.
  • If there are likely to be language or cultural differences, or if your partner’s administration standards are greatly different, consider how you will deal with these. We suggest you train and support staff to work with international partners.  

Mitigating risk

It’s important to take steps to mitigate the potential risks of international collaboration. You should always prioritise Australia’s competitive position and national security interests.

  • Check all parties involved, including financiers, are reputable.
  • Identify potential conflicts of interest.
  • Plan to prevent leaks or the abuse of contact networks.
  • Make staff aware of the risks and vulnerabilities of collaboration.
  • Have a plan to manage any misconduct.
  • Consider whether the collaboration might affect other multilateral relationships.
  • Consider how you might make the program financially sustainable. Long-term dependence on international funding increases vulnerability.

Security resources

Espionage is an international issue. We recommend you take steps to address the risk of overseas governments taking advantage of a collaboration to recruit or exploit students or researchers.

The Australian Government provides a range of security support.

Access the most current security intelligence and protective security advice from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s Business and Government Liaison Unit.

Learn about opportunities to work with the Department of Defence and access Defence security services through the Defence Industry Security Program.

See more about cyber scams and threats and get guidance on best practice for mitigating risk from the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

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Last updated: 8 December 2020

Content ID: 66072