Campus news

UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University launch research and graduate education partnership

By Karen Rhodes

An agreement signed today in Shenzhen, China, launches a partnership among the University of California, Berkeley, Tsinghua University and the Shenzhen municipal government promoting research collaboration and graduate student education.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Tsinghua University President Chen Jining and Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin signed an agreement to establish the Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute. The agreement is an addendum to a strategic partnership agreement signed by the two universities in 2012. It declares an intention to establish a joint institute, starting with research centers in three areas: nanotechnology and nanomedicine; low-carbon and new energy technologies; and data science and the next-generation Internet. Future centers will address additional collaboration topics and expand faculty engagement from across both institutions.

Questions and answers: The Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute

What is the new partnership?

UC Berkeley is partnering with Tsinghua University, China’s top science and engineering university, to launch the Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute. The goal of this partnership is to develop a research and education program that will enable the sort of complex, multidisciplinary collaborations necessary to successfully confront societal, environmental and economic challenges faced in China and California, as well as those that are global in scale and know no national borders.

What areas of research will be explored at the Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute?

UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering and Tsinghua’s Graduate School in Shenzhen are leading the effort to establish the programs of the Institute, initially with three multidisciplinary centers: Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine; Low-Carbon and New Energy Technologies; and Data Science and the Next-Generation Internet. Future programs will be developed according to societal need and mutual faculty interest.

Why is UC Berkeley pursuing this collaboration?

UC Berkeley recognizes the importance of global engagement; the excellence of Tsinghua University faculty and students; and the achievements possible with integrated, large-scale research and education.

What new academic programs for Berkeley students are being considered?

The program will allow for study and internships in Shenzhen for participating graduate students and co-supervision of master’s theses and doctoral dissertations. Graduate students will have the opportunity to closely collaborate and work in teams with Tsinghua students and faculties. No new individual or joint degree programs are being considered.

How will intellectual property developed through this collaboration be affected?

Intellectual property will be governed by agreements developed between the universities and research sponsors. The partnership does not limit the university’s right to negotiate intellectual property rights. All export laws of both the United States and China will be adhered to.

Are UC Berkeley funds being invested in China?

No. Funds for research and education activities in Shenzhen are being funded by the Shenzhen Municipal Government. Activities at UC Berkeley will be funded by individual and institutional donors eager to support the research and education mission of the joint institute.

Are other UC Berkeley units involved in this partnership?

Faculty from units across campus are participating, including but not limited to faculty in economics, social sciences, physics, chemistry, life sciences and several engineering disciplines.

How can faculty and students get involved?

Interested faculty and graduate students should contact Connie Chang-Hasnain, Associate Dean for Strategic Alliances at the College of Engineering and Whinnery Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley:

As a platform for innovative research and graduate-student education with parallel functionality on the two partner campuses, the institute will integrate research programs at both UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University to address societal needs and global challenges.

“UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University have a long and fruitful history of collaboration that has been supported by the comprehensive excellence of both institutions,” said Dirks. “With this new partnership, we seek to develop a research program that will enable the sort of complex, multidisciplinary collaborations necessary to successfully confront societal and economic challenges we face in China and California, as well as those that are global in scale and know no national borders.”

“It is an unprecedented platform for international collaboration based on our long strategic relationship with UC Berkeley, through the innovative model of university-government-industry partnership,” added Chen Jining. “A significant milestone for the collaboration is expected to provide a unique global ecosystem for transformational technology research and education, as well as a novel graduate curriculum for the cultivation of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and world leaders in science and technology.”

A key supporter of this partnership is the Shenzhen municipal government, along with global companies in Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta region. The institute’s proponents aim to prepare researchers in advanced scientific and engineering fields for global technology development, and to establish a comprehensive and collaborative innovation ecosystem. In his address, Xu Qin pledged further and more in-depth collaboration among the two campuses and the Shenzhen municipality.

Xu said, “It is great to see UC Berkeley and Tsinghua University, two leading universities from the United States and China, establishing a joint institute at Shenzhen. Such a collaboration is of benefit to the comprehensive innovation ecosystem of the city and will strengthen ties among education, research and economic development. This joint institute has a broader significance for the globalization of higher education in China and is a showcase of high-level educational cooperation and exchange between China and the U.S. I am confident that this joint endeavor will bring synergy to the cultivation of top-notch innovative talent for the future.”

Besides faculty from the two universities, the institute will also recruit top researchers globally and conduct innovative, cutting-edge research with active participation by graduate students. Research programs will enable UC Berkeley and Tsinghua graduate students to spend time at the partner institution for up to one year of research or study. Participating UC Berkeley graduate students will be able to study at Tsinghua University or hold internships with companies in Shenzhen, thus gaining international experience. Similarly, participating Tsinghua students will benefit from joint research supervision by UC Berkeley and Tsinghua faculty.

“Berkeley Engineering is proud of its history of partnership with Tsinghua, from individual faculty collaboration to our entrepreneurship education program for graduate-student engineers,” said S. Shankar Sastry, UC Berkeley’s dean of engineering. “The Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute builds not only on this productive history, but also on Berkeley Engineering’s multidisciplinary research centers and our partnerships such as those in Shanghai, Singapore and elsewhere throughout the globe.”

“What is prominent about graduate education in the Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute,” said Yang Bin, dean of Tsinghua University’s graduate school, “is its unique education model that emphasizes integration: integration between students and faculty from both domestic and overseas; integration between different disciplines and research fields; and integration among industry, government and academia. This is a model that lays the best ground for the cultivation of talent with innovative spirit and leadership.”

At an August workshop convened at UC Berkeley, professors from UC Berkeley and Tsinghua gathered to explore areas of collaboration in a wide range of fields, from engineering, economics and the social sciences to the biological sciences, chemistry and physics. Organizing the workshop was Connie Chang-Hasnain, a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and Berkeley Engineering’s associate dean for strategic alliances. Chang-Hasnain will also be the initial faculty lead for the new institute.

“I am honored to be leading this initiative bringing our two institutions together,” said Chang-Hasnain. “We have seen extensive exchanges between individual UC Berkeley professors and their colleagues in China. Now, we are building on this foundation by creating a synergistic, bilateral and multidisciplinary partnership with teams of professors and students in concerted collaborative efforts.”

Kang Feiyu, dean of the graduate school at Tsinghua University–Shenzhen, said, “The establishment of the Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute will promote the level of internationalization in the Shenzhen Graduate School and greatly contribute to education and research in the school. With the operation of the institute, we could anticipate stronger industry-university research cooperation and a more efficient technology transfer process within China.”

The Tsinghua–UC Berkeley Shenzhen Institute is expected to launch before the end of 2014. Doctoral students will be enrolled in the institute beginning in 2015, and master’s students beginning in 2016.