ESO and Australia strengthen their strategic partnership
10 February 2022
On 9 February, ESO and Australia signed an amendment to broaden the scope of their strategic partnership. By virtue of this expanded agreement, Australia will join ESO’s Technology Development Programme, meaning Australian companies and institutions will be eligible to work with ESO in developing future technologies for ground-based telescopes.
Australia has been a Strategic Partner of ESO since 2017. The partnership has granted Australian astronomers and industry access to ESO’s state-of-the-art research infrastructure at the La Silla and Paranal observatories, including telescopes such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope or ESO’s 3.6m Telescope . They also have the opportunity to collaborate with ESO Member State institutions on developing instruments for these observatories.
The amendment signed today will further strengthen this partnership by allowing Australia to participate in ESO’s Technology Development Programme. Launched in 2014, this programme brings ESO’s engineers and industry together to develop future technologies for ground-based astronomy in areas such as deformable mirrors, detectors or lasers. Most of the time the technologies at ESO are developed in collaboration with external industry, universities and institutes around Europe, a very diverse pool of contractors that will now be extended to Australia.
The amendment was signed by ESO’s Director General Xavier Barcons and the Australian Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price during a ceremony held online due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment strengthens ESO’s technical and scientific cooperation with Australia. It promotes science diplomacy and offers ground for future membership discussions, while providing Australian instrument builders and industry new opportunities for developing exciting technology.
Director General Barcons said: "I am very pleased to be signing an amendment that strengthens the bonds between ESO and Australia. By welcoming the country to ESO’s Technology Development Programme, we open new opportunities for Australia’s research institutions and high-tech industries to develop exciting technologies together with ESO. I look forward to furthering the engagement between Australia and ESO through this agreement."
Minister Price said: “The Strategic Partnership already delivers important benefits for Australia and ESO. Today’s amendment opens new doors for Australia’s institutions and businesses to contribute unique skills and know-how to develop ESO’s future telescopes and instruments, while advancing their own technical capabilities. Australia looks forward to participating in ESO’s Technology Development Programme, and appreciates this valuable offer by ESO.”
 The ESO research infrastructures to which Australian astronomers and companies have access are: the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, and the New Technology Telescope (NTT).
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