Oxford's first overseas research centre for physical science and engineering opens in China

Oxford's first overseas research centre for physical science and engineering opens in China
Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson with Mr Zhou Naixiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee and Secretary of the Suzhou Municipal Committee

The Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research, known as OSCAR, opened last week in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in eastern China.

OSCAR is the University’s first overseas centre for physical science and engineering research. Established by Oxford’s Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division, and opened on 22 November, it will expand the Division’s research activity and enhance the impact of its research.

The OSCAR building will provide 20,000 square metres of high-quality research laboratories, company incubation, lecture theatres and meeting and exhibition space.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, who officially opened OSCAR at its Suzhou location, one hour from Shanghai, said: 'One of Oxford’s many strengths is our international outlook. This collaboration in China offers exciting opportunities to advance our research and enhance its impact on society both at home and abroad. I look forward to seeing the results of these new collaborations across many innovative and emerging areas.'

Donal Bradley, Head of the MPLS Division, said: 'This marks the culmination of one journey and the start of another. A common vision and exceptional commitment on the part of individuals from both the Suzhou Industrial Park and Oxford University has allowed us to reach this exciting moment for OSCAR. We can now clearly see the outstanding opportunity that OSCAR will provide for Oxford scientists to work with academic and industrial collaborators in China, on key questions of common interest. Both sides will learn much from each other and our new journey will surely bring exciting advances in science and enhanced mutual understanding. It is a great pleasure to see the hard work of so many people coming to fruition in this way.'

Professor Zhanfeng Cui, Founding Director of OSCAR, said: 'OSCAR represents an important milestone to mark the presence and influence of the University of Oxford in China. It is a showcase of our internationally leading research in physical and engineering sciences and a demonstration of how cutting-edge research impacts and benefits human society as a whole.'

Initial research programmes will be led by academics from the University's Departments of Engineering Science, Physics, Chemistry and Materials. Applied science outcomes from this research are expected to encompass health informatics, tissue engineering, biomedical imaging techniques, environmental remediation, advanced materials and electronic devices.

Twelve Oxford staff have been selected as principal investigators (PIs) to establish research programmes in OSCAR during the first phase. As part of the MPLS selection process the PIs were required to articulate why a location in China provided an advantage to the delivery of their proposed research outcomes. They are committed to travel to OSCAR to supervise the research activities and will spend up to two months a year there.

Martin Edmunds, Strategic Research Manager for the MPLS Division, said: 'We are excited at this new development in the evolution of research at the University of Oxford. We hope that by physically locating research near to the industry base which can make best use of its outputs that we will be able to deliver innovative technologies across a range of applications, for example digital healthcare and industrial environmental remediation, leading to real-world benefit.'

He added: 'Working closely with industry will help us to identify and define interesting research areas. SIP is a vibrant place - OSCAR will be in close proximity to over 75,000 students, 5,000 academic staff and 90 Fortune 500 companies. This is a fertile innovation landscape through which academic collaborations and partnerships with industry will form. The research activity in OSCAR is not separate from the research activity in Oxford - it will reinforce our research in the UK.'

Matt Perkins, CEO of Oxford University Innovation (OUI), the research commercialisation wing of Oxford University which manages the University’s technology transfer and consulting activities, said: 'The launch of OSCAR creates the opportunity to bring Oxford’s world-class research capability to Suzhou and deliver positive benefit to the wider Chinese society. To support this mission, Oxford University Innovation will ensure the new research centre has the full backing of both OUI and its joint venture companies which are already based in and around Suzhou.'