German state poised for intensive co-operation with U of A

(Edmonton) A senior research official with the German State of Bavaria has said the University of Alberta is innovative and rich with opportunities, which universities in Bavaria could benefit from.

Florence Gauzy, senior scientific officer with the Bavarian Alliance for Research, a funding organization for Bavarian research with the Bavarian Government, was among a 25-member delegation to Alberta that visited the U of A. Gauzy says the Bavarian Alliance Research council considers innovation an important criterion in forming research partnerships.

“We are observing this university with great interest,” Gauzy said. “We believe that many of our Bavarian universities would benefit and would be happy to collaborate with colleagues here. This is a university that is moving forward, trying to get further and higher, and is innovative. These are very important criteria for us.”

At a reception held for the delegation, Carl Amrhein, provost and vice-president (academic), suggested that more engagement with Bavaria would be a good fit, as Germany has been identified as a priority within the university’s internationalization strategy. Amrhein says the U of A would be ready to strengthen relationship with Bavaria in the European Commission’s eighth framework, which is a document that, once developed, will set the European Union’s research priorities.

“We’re very keen and interested in finding that right combination of like-minded individuals in the various institutions in Canada, especially Alberta and in Germany, that will maximize the value of the eighth framework to our joint research,” he said. “Bavaria is absolutely at the top of our list of collaborators anywhere in the world. This university has a deeper and longer-standing relationship with our colleagues in Bavaria than any other place in the world, at least in the time that I’ve been here.”

Katja Hessel, member of the Bavarian Parliament and first vice-minister of the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology, also spoke at the reception held March 30, citing several examples of existing co-operation between the U of A and Bavaria.

“We have already succeeded in getting several research projects underway, but this does not mean we cannot extend our co-operation even further. It’s my firm belief that long-term projects would begin in the coming months and years.” She says delegates have learned about the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative, a five-year partnership between the U of A and the Helmholtz Association of German Research looking at, among other issues, oilsands tailings management, reclamation and greenhouse gas reduction technologies, “which Bavaria is following with very big interest. We have to intensify the relationships that we already have.”

She says, “From what I have seen, this university can be a very important partner, especially in the exchange of knowledge; [for example] we are emphasizing in Bavaria a linkage between science and industry, so that research in the sciences is applied in industry. We hope that we can initiate more projects with the University of Albertra.”

Hessel says the delegation indentified several opportunities for new engagement with the institution, especially in geography, medical technology, energy and environmental technology. She notes that Gauzy, who is also a board member with the Alberta Research and Innovation Authority, would be instrumental in furthering collaborations with Bavaria.

“We were at the centre for interdisciplinary research and we noticed that researchers at the U of A teach undergraduate student courses in very different topics, such as biology, engineering and chemistry. That is something we don’t do and we could import this model in Bavaria,” she said, commenting on other areas of U of A expertise that is of interest to the delegation. “We’re not so advanced in interdisciplinary studies as this university. Another possibility would be graduate student exchange. That would be of value.”

The 25-member delegation included members of the Bavarian Parliament, scientists and industry leaders. The scientific delegation to the U of A spent two days meeting researchers from several faculties and participated in a forum, moderated by Britta Baron, U of A , vice-provost and associate vice president(international) on future prospects for collaboration and exchange.