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APHA scientists developing international links with Commonwealth countries

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Michaela Giles, APHA EU Exit scientist for bacteriology, talks about how the Defra group supported the Commonwealth Science, Research and Innovation Event at the Royal Society in London.


During April, London hosted the week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that brought together representatives from the worlds of business, civil society and government.

You may have seen Theresa May on the news announcing the decision from the 53 Commonwealth Heads of Government that Prince Charles will one day succeed our Queen to become the next Head of the Commonwealth.

SRI Event

More than 200 international researchers, government officials and policymakers met at the Royal Society in London on the evening of 18 April 2018 to celebrate the vital role the Commonwealth networks play in innovation.

The Commonwealth Science, Research and Innovation (SRI) Event celebrated the contributions of the Commonwealth countries and applauded the ground-breaking work they achieve together. The influence of the Commonwealth in fostering partnerships and networks was also recognised.

The purpose of the event was to foster collaboration amongst Commonwealth countries and for all members of the Commonwealth to experience and contribute to nations other than their own. This theme was echoed by the Royal Society President and Nobel Prize Winner Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, who highlighted the need for scientists and researchers to draw on their global network for maximum impact.

Collaboration in the Defra group

A few weeks before the start of the SRI event, colleagues from APHA and other Defra agencies - the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) - were invited by The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to showcase the international engagement work of Defra and its agencies.

Professor Tony Fooks’ International Development team at APHA accepted the invite and led the opportunity to show how APHA has been at the forefront in the fight against animal and plant diseases.

SRI event joint banner saying, 'Supporting global food security through high animal and plant health status. Working with partners throughout the Commonwealth. Government to Government science and policy support. Full spectrum biosecurity strategies supporting free trade. Dedicated inspectorates leading surveillance in animal, fish, plant and bee health. Internationally-renowned networks and Reference Laboratories with capabilities in threat awareness, definition and mitigation. Scientist to scientist collaborative R&D, delivering cutting edge research and diagnostics.
Defra/APHA/VMD/CEFAS Joint Banner

Between APHA, APHA Scientific, (APHA’s commercial services), VMD and Cefas, a joint banner was produced showcasing the breadth of activities across all functions of Defra together with an APHA International Development banner highlighting our existing International Development and Networks that could be built upon; and we also made use of our existing banners including APHA Scientific, APHA Plant and Bee Health.

A rolling slide show was designed and displayed on the stand to draw the delegates’ attention and members of each organisation were on hand to discuss how Defra can support and work with the Commonwealth.

Our stand was not only a success in creating interest and potential collaborations with other Commonwealth countries but also at demonstrating how well the Defra family present as a united strength at international events.

Making national and international links

Numerous links were established at the event including regenerating national links with members of the Department of Health in working together on AMR issues.

Also, with members of the Royal Society of Biology Policy and Public Affairs team with initiatives to introduce plant health into degrees to promote and develop pathways for plant health professionals.

From an international perspective, discussions were held with various Commonwealth representatives dealing with the application of biosecurity, import and export processes in support of animal and plant health. In particular the application of the science to the benefit of global trade but also home-grown production to the benefit of local communities.

Group of five gentlemen and two women standing at a table containing leaflets with pull-up banners behind them.
Making connections at the SRI event

In conclusion

This first event for the APHA International Development team generated positive interest and discussion with delegates and exhibitors from all Commonwealth countries. The collaboration on the stand between representatives of the Defra agencies worked effectively demonstrating the Defra group as being able to offer a wide range of services and in particular, APHA as a professional centre of international excellence.

Leading up to EU Exit , the International Development team is working across the agency to strategically assess the opportunities to work more closely with partners throughout the Commonwealth and from around the world. Although the UK is leaving the EU, the UK is not leaving Europe and APHA will continue to work directly with our European partners.

In leaving the EU however, there are numerous opportunities for new partnerships. In close liaison with Defra and the other Defra agencies, APHA will continue to develop our international engagement and promote the unique capabilities of the agency.

In support of this hugely important and successful joint effort Tony Fooks said:

“APHA is committed to maintain its position as a leading global scientific research organisation where science and innovation are of paramount importance allowing the agency to contribute to Commonwealth Laboratory Networks in the future”

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