Oxford University’s commitment to international scientific excellence took centre stage this week when senior staff visited China, as part of a British Council-led Knowledge Economy Education Partnerships (KEEP) mission, for research collaboration discussions with some of the country’s tech R&D leaders.
Professor Donal Bradley, Head of Oxford University’s Mathematical, Physics and Life Sciences division (MPLS), met with Professor Qing Liu, the President of Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI) and his colleagues to negotiate how the two could work together to engage local industries with the new Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR).
In December 2016 the University signed an agreement with Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in China’s Jiangsu Province, to establish OSCAR. The multidisciplinary research, innovation and technology centre, will tackle research and development challenges and technologies that both capitalize on the facility’s location and Oxford’s research strengths. OSCAR is to be built in the Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District, a hotspot for science and innovation activity.
The centre will open its doors in 2018 with initial research projects to focus on biomedical engineering, advanced functional materials including plastic electronics, environmental and energy technologies, and data sciences including finance and health informatics. Other areas of research will be considered for inclusion at a later date.
As part of the visit, Professor Bradley also met with prominent members of the Jiangsu innovation community, including Nanjing Tech University (NTU) President Wei Huang with whom he discussed setting up a joint laboratory within OSCAR, linked to the NTU Advanced Materials and Advanced Synthesis Institutes. Professor Ron Roy of the MPLS division additionally met with existing collaborators in Nanjing University’s renowned Institute of Acoustics.
Building stronger UK-Jiangsu university links was the key objective of the KEEP mission. Hosted by the British Council in partnership with Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education (JPDE), and co-funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the programme focused on three priority sectors, namely Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Environmental Engineering, and considered the best mechanisms to promote talent development and innovation through research and development.
The visit provided an excellent opportunity to build on the growing links between Oxford and China, allowing us to engage with a wider community of Jiangsu universities and innovation centres and to explore the best ways to work together.
Professor Donal Bradley, Head of the Maths Physics and Life Sciences division at Oxford University
Wang Chengbin, Deputy Director-General of JPDE, and John Edwards, British Consul General in Shanghai, welcomed the participants to the meeting. Lin Yue, Director of the JPDE Division for International Cooperation and Matt Knowles, Director East China at the British Council, then led the programme of events. Visits to Nanjing University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology and South East University were complemented by plenary sessions, themed discussions and networking activities involving 8 UK and 12 Jiangsu universities.
Jim Addison, Director Education at the British Council in China, said: 'Working with the province of Jiangsu to develop world-class universities, the UK will retain its leading position as China’s top partner in higher education. This will benefit students, academics and universities in both countries and help drive joint research innovation, and ultimately, prosperity.'
It is expected that Jiangsu Party Secretary Qiang Li will launch a programme of follow-up activities - aligned to the Chinese government’s developing world-class universities action - to progress this initiative during his visit to the UK in May.
Speaking on the importance of the visit, Professor Bradley said: 'The visit provided an excellent opportunity to build on the growing links between Oxford and China, allowing us to engage with a wider community of Jiangsu universities and innovation centres and to explore the best ways to work together. OSCAR will greatly facilitate this engagement and provide a locus for Oxford researchers to work closely with partner institutions and companies.’