Research Roundtable highlights future opportunities for the sector in the IOT

A Working Group will be established to develop a Research Prospectus for the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) and inform a business case for a Research Centre on Christmas Island (CI), in line with community aspirations for the research sector.

I thank local leaders, including the Presidents of the Shires of CI and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI), and members of the Indian Ocean Territories Regional Development Organisation (RDO), for their participation and ideas provided at the CI Research Roundtable held in Canberra in February.

Scientific organisations, universities and Australian Government representatives came together to discuss opportunities to capitalise on the IOT’s unique ecosystems, species and conservation value, and the potential to establish a research and education sector as an enduring presence for the community.

As the chair of the Roundtable, I was supported by the Administrator of CI and CKI, Mrs Natasha Griggs, who is also the Chair of the IOTRDO.

I appreciated the constructive engagement from around the table, and participants agreed there are clear opportunities for the IOT in research and education, with local support and engagement identified as a key success factor. The focus now is to ensure the proposed way forward is targeted and practical, to ensure an enduring outcome.

The Roundtable explored research opportunities across a range of disciplines including ecology, taxonomy, tropical health and medicine, agriculture and biosecurity. Opportunities for partnerships and collaboration for a potential Research Centre were also identified.

As outlined in the community-led Our Christmas Island: 2030 Strategic Plan, the CI community’s goals for the future include opportunities for international education, research and development to capitalise on the Island’s extraordinary environment.

In line with this aspiration, the CI Research Roundtable, and associated initiatives, are a key element of the plan to help to layer and diversify the local economy by encouraging collaborations and partnerships.

The Working Group will include 13 members representing a diversity of research interests and expertise from the university and government sectors, as well as local community representation. It will hold its first meeting next month, to commence development of the IOT Research Prospectus.

The Prospectus will be finalised later this year, and I will provide more information in coming weeks about how the community can feed into this process.