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Stories of EU-Australia Relations

05 Jun 2017
By Louise Hand PSM
Dr Paddy Neumann works on the Neumann Drive. Photo: Horst Burghardt.

To outside observers, the idea of EU-Australia relations can appear abstract. But from winemaking to rocket science, Australians and Europeans are cooperating to produce amazing innovations.

In the 55 years since Australia and the European Union established formal ties, we have built a dynamic and enduring relationship based on a shared commitment to freedom and democracy, not solely based on our close institutional links but also through interpersonal bonds. As well as cooperating in multilateral forums, Australia and the EU are valued partners in a range of areas including combating terrorism, addressing economic and sustainable development challenges, and fostering good governance. It is a close, productive and diverse relationship, and in many ways a relationship focussed on individuals undertaking an amazing array of activities. We’ve chosen some for you to enjoy with us.

Fresh Science

In 2013 the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) joined a trilateral partnership for grape and wine research, education and technology transfer with the University of Bordeaux in France and Germany’s Hochschule Geisenheim University. Known as the ‘BAG alliance’, each partner contributes to an aspect of the group’s work. One key project is researching the genomics of the wine spoilage yeast, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, comparing strains from Australia, France and Germany.

PhD student, Marta Avramova, from the University of Bordeaux, is spending 12 months at the AWRI to work on this project and is co-supervised by AWRI and Bordeaux scientists. Marta presented her work at the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference in July 2016, and was awarded a prize for the best ‘Fresh Science’ presentation in the study of wines.

The BAG alliance project on Brettanomyces genomics complements the AWRI’s existing research on this spoilage yeast, which is supported by Australia’s grapegrowers and winemakers through their investment body, Wine Australia, with matching funds from the Australian Government.

Actually, it IS rocket science!

Australian rocket scientist, Dr Paddy Neumann, has invented technology that could revolutionise space travel: his rocket drive recycles space junk for fuel and will be tested soon on the International Space Station (ISS).

Named the Neumann Drive, the rocket engine heats solid metal, turning it into plasma to propel the space vehicle. While similar ion thruster propulsion systems have previously been used on space missions, they employed Xenon gas atoms as propellant, which is expensive, in limited supply, and cumbersome to deploy. The Neumann Drive’s use of widely available metals could be a breakthrough for space travel.

“If we were to recycle space junk, we would be actively removing debris from the near-Earth environment, lowering rates of collision, increasing the lifespan of valuable assets in orbit, and processing it for fuel for the drives. We have created a market for material in space, sourced from space,” Neumann says.

The latest landmark for the Neumann Drive was formalised in late 2016, when the start-up Neumann Space agreed to a deal for European company Airbus Defence & Space to transport a drive to the ISS in 2018 for a 12-month test program. Tests will take place on the Bartolomeo platform, a commercial research platform attached to the European Columbus module of the ISS. The aim is to demonstrate how the drive performs in a real out-of-world environment for an extended period.

Louise Hand PSM is the First Assistant Secretary, Europe Division in the Australian Commonwealth Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She is a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee of the EU-Australia Leadership Forum.

This article originally appeared in The EU and Australia: Shared Opportunities and Common Challenges, published on the occasion of the inaugural EU-Australia Senior and Emerging Leaders’ Forums in Sydney on 2­­–6 June 2017. The AIIA is part of the international consortium selected to deliver the EU-Australia Leadership Forum project, a three-year initiative funded by the EU.