China partnership

(Edmonton)  With Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking on, U of A Vice-President (Research) Lorne Babiuk and Weihe Xie, vice-president of Tsinghua University, signed an historic agreement Feb. 9 in China. The five-year agreement will create the Sino-Canada Joint Energy Research Initiative, enabling research projects in energy and environment technologies, as well as the development and commercialization of those technologies. It also provides opportunities for student and faculty exchanges between the two institutions.

Gordon Houlden, director of the University of Alberta’s China Institute, says the memorandum of understanding will mark the first such accord between Tsinghua and a Canadian university.

"This agreement will give U of A researcher’s access to top Chinese researchers who are tackling some of the same problems that we’re working on, as well as some newer challenges, and provide fresh perspectives on these issues. This agreement also comes at a time when energy collaboration between the two countries is moving forward, as exemplified by the energy focus of the prime minister’s current visit to China,” Houlden said.

“There’s no other Canadian university that has an energy research focus memorandum of understating with Tsinghua. We will be in a privileged position following this accord. It’s a premier partnership and any university would be pleased to have this kind of agreement with such a high-quality university.”

Houlden says Tsinghua is a top-ranked university, recognized for its energy and environmental research in China. He says officials from Tsinghua became aware of U of A’s research excellence in engineering and science during a recent visit to Edmonton.

University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera says the agreement with Tsinghua University will further deepen the U of A’s scholarship. “In order for the University of Alberta to be at the forefront of global research, we must continue to focus on finding effective solutions to global problems and exploring collaborative opportunities with international partners. Given our collective leadership in the study of energy and the environment, I believe that Tsinghua University and the U of A make for excellent research partners.”

Carl Amrhein, U of A provost and vice president (academic), says the agreement represents the university’s commitment to international co-operation in the name of greater research outcomes. "This partnership represents a perfect match that will bring new research initiatives and findings in energy and environment to the benefit of the people of Canada and China. We look forward to working with our colleagues in Tsinghua."

Samarasekera underscored that point. “Environmental regulations around the world are increasingly going to be harmonized, and this would be an opportunity for us to look at the differences and similarities of standards in the two countries.”

The agreement is a recent example of the university’s continuing effort at connecting and engaging with the rest of world, by creating opportunities for students and researchers to work with colleagues worldwide. And Houlden says China forms a key part in that effort.

“The rise of China has global implications. Higher education is no exception. Chinese universities are the recipients of substantive investment by the Chinese Government, and Chinese post-secondary students represent the largest single student body in the world, over 20 million,” he said. “Building strong linkages to China’s top universities serve the long-term interests of the U of A, and will generate enduring research partnerships.”