Reflecting upon the past year, the detrimental effects of COVID-19 have been suffered internationally; the pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration between countries when attempting to find a solution to such an issue. In light of this situation, UK Indonesia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Sciences (UKICIS), in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, hosted the ‘Enabling Global Health Security Forum’. This forum aimed to discuss ways in which closer cooperation between Indonesia-UK could provide means to tackle COVID-19, through sharing the best practices to raise public awareness on the virus’ mutations and variants: exploring techniques to strengthen track-and-trace to prevent further spread of variants and discussing efficacy of vaccine boosters against new variants.
The forum began with opening remarks from Dr Bagus Muljadi, Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham. Dr Muljadi spoke of the work UKICIS have been undertaking in creating a “free movement zone”, where ideas and information can be shared freely between academics. The free movement zone described aims to be a key factor in unlocking the potential of Indonesia as a nation. Rich in biodiversity and geothermal energy, Dr Muljadi believes Indonesia has the means to become one of the next “Scientific Superpowers”. Led by University of Nottingham, UKICIS is also partnered with University of Warwick and Coventry University; along with three prestigious Indonesian universities: Institut Teknologi Bandung, IPB University, Universitas Gadjah Mada. Dr Muljadi spoke of the benefits of the UKICIS collaboration, by bringing the best of UK-Indonesian academia together, along with the support of the Indonesian embassy in London, the consortium is well on its way in becoming the most influential route of knowledge exchange between the countries. Moreover, with plans of partnership with more UK and Indonesian Universities, the possibilities in scientific and technological advancement is vast.
Witnessed by Professor Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesian Minister of Research and Technology, and Nigel Adams MP, as well as over 100 academics from the UK and Indonesia; the founding members from the six universities and H.E Ambassador Desra Percaya proceeded to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The founding members namely, Prof Christine Ennew, Prof Reini Wirahadikusumah, Prof Richard Dashwood, Prof Arif Satria, Prof Dame Jessica Corner and Prof Panut Mulyono gave opening remarks pertaining to the future they envision for UKICIS. Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at The University of Nottingham, described UKICIS as “An example of science diplomacy at its best, in bringing great minds together”, and stated “Through the consortium we can deepen relationships, not only between our institutions but between our two countries, through sharing of academics and exchange of culture”.
Ambassador Owen Jenkins went on to address the forum imploring diaspora to use UKICIS as an example to work together, describing science, technology, innovation and research as “fundamental to modern economies, and determine success of these societies”. H.E Ambassador Desra Percaya pledged the Indonesian embassy “To support UKICIS mission to develop leading edge knowledge and excellence to address various societal challenges in Indonesia: to enhance educational, economic, and social cultural links between UK and Indonesia through community engagement”. Nigel Adams MP, UK’s Minister of State for Asia, expressed his support for such a collaboration especially since COVID-19 has highlighted the “vital importance of research and government-to-government collaboration”. Key note speaker, Prof Carole Mundell, UK Chief International Science Envoy, spoke of expedition of vaccine development in the UK. Within her speech, Prof Mundell stated that the UK has become Indonesia’s top five partners in Research and Innovation and “through initiatives such as UKICIS, including work on pandemic resilience, our bilateral partnership will continue to flourish”.
A webinar followed held by Prof Ali Ghufron Mukti, President Director of the Health Social Security Administration (BPJS) / Chairman of the Covid-19 Research and Innovation Consortium, Prof Lawrence Young, Prof Dame Jessica Corner, and Prof Kuwait Triyana. The webinar discussed challenges the new COVID-19 virus variants pose to vaccination efforts and explored ways in which closer cooperation could contribute to the success of vaccination policies between networks of government, private sector, academia, healthcare workers, and the public. UKCIS plans to host many more fruitful conversations with the intention to inspire further collaboration, bridging the gap between the two nations.