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UAlberta-China partnerships bolster energy and environment research

University of Alberta

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IMAGE: Alberta delegates, including UAlberta Chancellor Doug Stollery (third from left) and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (fifth from left) signed several agreements with partners in China, including Tsinghua University. view more

Credit: University of Alberta

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 and Tsinghua University were in Beijing on April 20 to sign an agreement to create the Joint Research Centre for Future Energy and Environment. It 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 Rachel Notley, to strengthen ties with the province's second-largest trading partner.

"The University of Alberta values our long-standing partnerships with China and Tsinghua University, which bring together world-leading talent to address globally important issues such as clean energy, environment and climate change," said U of A President David Turpin. "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."

Larry Kostiuk, the U of A's associate vice-president of research, said the Joint Research Centre for Future Energy and Environment 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. In 2012, the U of A and Tsinghua created the Sino-Canadian Energy and Environment Research and Education Initiative, which has led to more than 30 partnerships in clean energy, environment, water, energy transport and policy.

Kostiuk said the new centre elevates relations with Tsinghua to a "completely new level." 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 Kostiuk, who was in China for the signing. "We come from different places and backgrounds, but we're going to come together and leverage our different perspectives to solve common problems."

The centre will be based at Tsinghua in a state-of-the-art research facility. Once operational, 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. This centre would be the only one created in partnership with a Canadian university.

Kostiuk 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 impacts of their adoption.

Kostiuk said the U of A-Tsinghua centre will be even broader in scope than Future Energy Systems, addressing environment and water issues not necessarily tied to energy.

"Tsinghua University is a world leader in clean, low-carbon and renewable energy research and technologies. We all look forward to getting to work with incredibly bright people on both sides."

"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

In addition to the joint research centre, 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 Premier 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."

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