COLLABORATION

New Zealand rides the China research collaboration wave

SOURCE: zhao jiankang/Shutterstock
Massey University is the first New Zealand university to join the global innovation hub in Suzhou Industrial Park.

As China rapidly edges the United States out of the top spot to become Australia’s biggest research partner, New Zealand’s Massey University is getting in on the action, striking a deal with one of China’s biggest industrial committees.

The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) Administrative Committee was established in 1994 as a cooperative project between Beijing and the Singapore government. The partnership allows the two countries to share industrialisation experiences, making the park an innovation hub and China’s number one national economic and technological development zone.

Given the success of SIP, Massey’s collaboration with the committee is almost guaranteed to be a fruitful one.

Massey is the first New Zealand university to sign with the group, but it is far from the first global institution. Within the park, the Science and Education Innovation District comprises 29 universities from around the world.

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According to a press release, the memorandum of understanding signed last week aims to strengthen the exchange of knowledge and innovation between researchers, scholars, and students from both China and New Zealand.

It seeks to provide a platform to create global scientific and research collaboration and includes plans for collaborative incubation projects, applications for third-party funding, student exchanges, entrepreneurship activities, and a scientific research institute.

“The park is a fantastic ecosystem for science and innovation,” said Massey’s College of Sciences Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Ray Geor.

“With all the international universities, as well as the local universities and research institutes, it is almost unparalleled as an environment for making advancements in a variety of scientific fields. Now, going forward, Massey University can join that ecosystem.”

China has become a powerhouse in recent years when it comes to university collaborations, especially in Asia Pacific.

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As suspicions continue to grow in much of the western world about national security risks involved in such collaborations, both New Zealand and Australia are pushing ahead with a growing number of partnerships.

A study from the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS), released last week, determined that China will beat the United States to become Australia’s biggest research partner in 2019 for the first time ever.

Researchers compared the number of research papers written and compared this with research from the UK, US, and Germany – historically, Australia’s biggest collaborators. They found the rise of China in the research field to be both “rapid and dramatic,” rising from almost zero in 1998 to make up 15 percent of all Australia’s scientific research today.

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Despite Beijing’s issues with Washington and the Trump administration, New Zealand is taking a similar stance to Australia and seeing the inherent value in teaming up with one of the most innovative and wealthy countries on the planet.

“Scientific and technological cooperation between New Zealand and China has gained a significant amount of momentum in the last few years,” said Consul of the New Zealand Consulate-General in Shanghai, Mike Roger.

“[It is] underpinned by strong political relationships at central and local government levels, as well as between tertiary institutions and industry bodies in areas of mutual interest.”