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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Science, technology and global health reception

Speech by Minister Freeman at ASEAN, London on 2 November.


Your Excellency, Secretary General to ASEAN, I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the deepening partnership between ASEAN and the UK.

And thank you to our host this evening, Minister Quince.

Tonight, let me share a few words on our science and technology partnership.

AI Summit

We are not shy about our plan to make the UK a science and technology superpower by 2030. In March we launched our roadmap – the UK Science and Technology Framework alongside £370 million to boost investment in innovation and seize the potential of new technologies like AI.

Groundbreaking technologies like artificial intelligence have the potential to transform our societies and economies changing all our lives across the globe. It’s why, this week, the UK is hosting the AI Safety Summit - to set a new path for collective international action to navigate the opportunities and risks of frontier AI.

Complex issues like this demand international dialogue. That is why relationships like UK-ASEAN are so important. And I am pleased we have Science and Technology Ministers from a number of ASEAN Member States here in the UK this week at the Summit. We must continue this close collaboration.


Our Science and Technology partnership with ASEAN continues to grow. Just 2 weeks ago we held the first ASEAN-UK dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation in the Philippines. And over the next year we will continue to work with the ASEAN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation, focusing on AI and Engineering Biology as the technologies of tomorrow. This activity is just part of how we are delivering against the ASEAN – UK Plan of Action. We are committed to encouraging cooperation between our Science and Technology communities. A community which is so well represented here tonight.

International Science Partnerships Fund

I am happy to announce that our International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF) will invest £337 million over the next 2 years in collaborations to tackle the existential challenges facing the world – from climate change, to pandemics, to the global race to harness the power and potential of emerging technologies.

Of this, the UK government has committed £218 million to partnerships with low and middle-income countries to support sustainable development.

The fund puts research and innovation at the heart of our international relationships. And I’m delighted about the partnerships that this fund will bolster with ASEAN Member States.

ISPF directs government investment and effort into the science and research issues that really matter. It builds partnerships based on excellence to share knowledge and research infrastructure, cultivate strong diplomatic ties, promote global standards and values, and foster mobile talent in Southeast Asia and in the UK.

Just a few examples include:

  • UKRI is proposing to allocate £21 million to support collaborative research on infectious diseases of relevance to Southeast Asia with epidemic and AMR potential. And early-stage discussions are taking place with potential partners in the region. The programme aims to establish a strong regional network of researchers, in partnership with the UK, on this subject of global health significance
  • BBSRC and NERC are scoping a £12 million programme focused on interdisciplinary approaches to enhance the sustainability and resilience of aquaculture systems in Southeast Asia
  • British Council is launching a £9 million programme, funding research collaboration on: Planet, Health, Tech, and Talent. For eligible research institutions in the UK and counterparts including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam
  • opportunities for early career researchers include a £2.5 million British Council fellowships programme, funding UK institutions to host researchers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, providing a foundation to launch careers while enhancing research capacity in their home countries

Wider announcements (FCDO)

And ISPF is not the only programme that benefits our science and technology partnership with ASEAN.

We have 10 new UK-ASEAN Scholarships for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). And, next year, we will launch a new ASEAN Chevening Scholarships Programme.

Colleagues in the FCDO have launched, with the ASEAN Secretariat, a £1 million Research and Innovation for Development (RIDA) initiative to harness innovation and support low-income and vulnerable populations across ASEAN. This initiative will support partnerships between researchers and industry based in the UK and Southeast Asia. Partnerships which will develop and scale novel innovations on health, climate and energy.

And last month the UK announced an additional £2 million to the ASEAN-Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The Innovate for Food and Nutrition Security programme will build resilience and sustainability of agriculture and food systems in ASEAN.

We have already built strong science partnerships across ASEAN with the support of our Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund. From cyclone prediction to engineering high-yielding breeds of rice, our research partnerships with our friends in ASEAN Member States are already bearing fruit. But it is clear there is so much more we can do.

Your Excellency, Ambassadors, Business Leaders, Academics, Colleagues – I am proud to be here tonight, bringing together UK expertise, our thought leaders, our influential private sector - with one of fastest growing, most dynamic regions in the world. I look forward to the many exciting partnerships we will build together.


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