Day Three of CHOGM: Advocating for Commonwealth-wide collaborations in science and innovation


The third day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) saw the ACU Secretary General, the Royal Society President, and the British Minister of State for Universities address international researchers and policymakers to celebrate the vital role that universities play in innovation.

Speaking at a Royal Society event on Commonwealth Science, Research and Innovation Collaboration on Wednesday evening in London, Dr Joanna Newman praised the brightest minds in the Commonwealth and applauded the ground-breaking work they achieve together.

Dr Joanna Newman said: ‘There is a global consensus on the role of science, research and innovation in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that everyone can benefit from knowledge-based economies – and also on the need for partnerships to achieve these goals.

‘The Commonwealth has huge value in fostering these kinds of partnerships. The power of our network lies in our shared language, structures, and systems. These commonalities pave the way to an ease of working together and pooling resources – a particularly powerful advantage when it comes to science and innovation – enabling researchers to collaborate across borders; institutions to pool their widely varied areas of expertise; and students and staff to experience and contribute to nations other than their own.

‘Collaboration amongst Commonwealth countries has helped to fight infectious diseases such as chikungunya, zika, West Nile, and yellow fever. The Square Kilometre Array – the world’s largest radio telescope – will be built in Australia and South Africa, with over 20 countries sharing and contributing expertise, to help deepen our understanding of the universe.’

She went on to highlight the value of higher education to society, and her conviction that this value is enhanced by international collaboration. ‘Higher education is integral to building healthier, happier, and wealthier societies. Countries that invest in higher education are able to train more teachers and give people the skills they need to take up jobs or create jobs – and they are also able, through cutting-edge research, to develop local, national, and global responses to the issues that challenge all of us. At the ACU, we support both the individuals and the institutions to build their capacity, so that universities can fulfil their mission.’

Dr Newman’s speech came after an initial address by UK Minister of State for Universities Sam Gyimah MP and Royal Society President and Nobel Prize Winner Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, where both highlighted the need for scientists and researchers to draw on their global network for maximum impact.

The audience of 200 included Commonwealth Rutherford Fellows – a new scheme which aims to attract global talent and support the UK’s research base. The Fellowships are managed by the ACU, offered through the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, and funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Other news from Day Three at CHOGM

Wednesday was the final day of the parallel forums on Business, Women, People, and Youth – where the chair of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, Kishva Ambigapathy, spoke beautifully on youth issues and Commonwealth of Learning President Asha Kanwar delivered passionate insights on the use of technology to expand education.

Those forums were a chance for policymakers, diplomats and civil society from all 53 Commonwealth countries to discuss shared issues and solutions.

Key highlights from the forums on Wednesday included:

  • A session on overcoming barriers: violence against women and girls (VAWG) at the Commonwealth Women's Forum. Panellists discussed the importance of tackling VAWG, indicating that this issue is fundamental to women’s rights and gender equality. The ACU through its work with the Martha Farrell Foundation, works to overcome barriers and reduce sexual harassment on university campuses across the Commonwealth.
  • A panel on ‘Delivering the SDGs – Aligning Business, Society and Governments’ discussed the importance of numerous actors working together to realise the SDGs – governments, private sector and civil society.

Wednesday also marked the beginning of the Foreign Ministers' meetings, chaired by UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, which the ACU Secretary General attended as an official observer.

The 53 Commonwealth heads of state will meet for the official summit from Thursday 19 to Friday 20 April.

More information

CHOGM is a five-day summit for Commonwealth Heads of Governments which opened in London, UK, on Monday 16 April.

The ACU is attending CHOGM to champion the role of higher education in building inclusive societies, and to shape the agenda on behalf of its member universities. Throughout the week, ACU Secretary General, Dr Joanna Newman, will be speaking and chairing sessions, and providing an official voice for higher education in the Commonwealth.