Chinese partnerships bolster energy and environment research, economic diversification

UAlberta partners with Tsinghua University to create Joint Research Centre for Future Energy and Environment during recent Alberta mission.

The University of Alberta is teaming up with research partners in China to develop low-carbon, sustainable energy solutions while tackling global environmental challenges.

Officials from the U of A, Tsinghua University and the Government of Alberta-led by Premier Rachel Notley-were in Beijing on April 20 to sign an agreement to create the Joint Research Centre for Future Energy and Environment. Researchers will collaborate on a range of problems related to energy, environment and climate change, renewable energy, advanced power systems, energy transport and more.

"This is a rare opportunity for a Canadian university to partner with Tsinghua University in such a significant way," said Larry Kostiuk, U of A associate vice-president of research. "We come from different places and backgrounds, but we're going to come together and leverage our different perspectives to solve common problems."

Evolving collaboration between leading universities

Kostiuk said the joint research centre is the latest evolution in more than two decades of collaborations between the U of A and Tsinghua University-arguably China's best research institution and among the top in the world.

The centre will be based at Tsinghua in a state-of-the-art research facility. Once construction is completed in the next three years, the centre will be able to apply for grant funding through the Chinese Ministry of Education, which is establishing strategic international research centres across the country.

"There are a number of joint research centres in China. This is the only one with a Canadian university," said Kostiuk, who will serve as the new centre's deputy director while retaining his position as director of U of A's Future Energy Systems initiative, which brings together researchers across disciplines to improve and develop new low-carbon energy technologies, integrate them into today's infrastructure and understand the social and economic impact of their adoption.

Kostiuk said the creation of Future Energy Systems as well as the U of A's long-standing ties to Tsinghua-strengthened by a recent delegation led by President David Turpin-were key factors in the new partnership.

Turpin said the joint research centre will leverage the strengths of world-leading talent at both institutions to address globally important issues such as clean energy, environment and climate change. Since 2012, the two institutions have collaborated on more than 30 research projects in these areas.

"Strengthening these collaborations will open even more avenues of discovery and lead to new ideas, technologies and innovations that will benefit both countries and the world," Turpin said.

"We are pleased to work with the University of Alberta, which has a global reputation in energy systems research," said Qikun Xue, vice-president of research with Tsinghua University. "We look forward to bringing our strengths together to tackle many critical issues facing our planet."

Partnerships boost economic diversification, training

The joint research centre was one of several key agreements the U of A signed with Chinese partners as part of a wider Government of Alberta trade mission, led by Premier Notley, to strengthen ties with the province's second-largest trading partner.

The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine signed a memorandum of understanding with Guanghua International Education Association to develop training for health professionals that will help China enhance and expand rehabilitation capacity.

TEC Edmonton signed an agreement with Tsinghua University's research innovation incubator, TusPark/TusStar, on a new joint incubator. TusPark/TusStar operates the largest university science park in the world, and the new partnership would expand its global reach, creating economic opportunities for Edmonton and Alberta.

"I am extremely proud to support the University of Alberta and TEC Edmonton in forming relationships with such innovative partners in China," said Notley. "We look forward to seeing this partnership thrive, and to watching Alberta's expertise across a variety of areas, not only create opportunities for Albertans, but make a difference around the world."