Dunedin's burgeoning relationship with Shanghai has taken
a major step forward after the University of Otago secured a
new deal to unlock access to China's enormous medical research
The agreement, signed during a Dunedin delegation's trip to
Qingdao, Shanghai, earlier this month, will see the
University of Otago working with Shanghai Jiao Tong
University on research and commercial applications.
Jiao Tong is considered one of the best - as well as the
biggest - universities in China, and the two institutions
already had a memorandum of understanding in place.
However, a more specific ''relationship agreement'' was
signed this month by the University of Otago's Research and
Enterprise Office and Jiao Tong's Advanced Industrial
Technology Research Institute.
Research and Enterprise Office director Dr Gavin Clark, who
was in Shanghai, said it was not a one-off project, but
rather opened a ''portal'' to a range of collaborations
between the two institutions.
''The commercial benefits are discoveries here could end up
being translated into products sold by industry not just in
the Western world, but in China.
''It's access to Chinese markets, essentially, through
While the universities would work together on research
projects with joint funding, talks had also begun on forming
consortia with companies in both countries to aid their work,
The approach could help unlock additional research funding
for the University of Otago, and also encourage the launch of
new biomedical or related companies in Dunedin over time, Dr
''You can see further investment coming to pump the
innovation pipeline in terms of small companies here
associated with the university. That's a possibility.''
And, while the initial focus would be on biomedical research
and products, the relationship would also span food,
pharmaceutical, cancer diagnosis and renewable energy
research, among other fields, he said.
The agreement was signed during a week-long trip to Shanghai
by a Dunedin delegation including deputy mayor Chris Staynes,
Dunedin City Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose and Otago
Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie.
Dr Bidrose said the deal was ''a remarkable opportunity'',
and could be followed by another, between Qingdao University,
the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic, later this
''I think that's exciting.''
The agreement was also a direct result of Dunedin's
sister-city relationship with Shanghai, developed over time,
which ''they feel, as we feel ... is starting to bear
''This is potentially a big deal for [Otago] University. Jiao
Tong University is their Oxford or their Cambridge.''
Cr Staynes said a ''sense of economic potential'' from the
relationship was now ''really strong'', while Mr Christie
said economic spinoffs for Dunedin could include greater
research funding, commercialisation of products and new
companies in the city.
''Obviously China's a massive market.
''You get a foot in there with some of the technology we've
got, then obviously that would be beneficial for those
''Being able to plug into a university that has a campus
there, I think also gives that opportunity for our university
to be looking at what they can do.''
Dr Clark said part of the benefit of the deal for the
University of Otago would be collaboration with a partner
''who can operate at the scale that they do''.
Jiao Tong was a ''big giant'', including in size and
reputation, and received significant sums of Chinese
government funding to translate research into products.
China itself also had ''big and particular needs'', including
demand for stomach cancer research and renewable energy
technology, he said.
''When the Chinese Government decides to tackle those sorts
of problems, the whole nation seems to come behind it, so
there's a real energy about the way the Chinese are tackling
the problems that technology can solve.''
Jiao Tong, in turn, saw the potential in access to the
University of Otago's innovative thinking, understanding of
diseases, and skills at the ''discovery end'' of research, Dr