Cambridge University and the Nanjing Municipal Government are launching a smart cities hothouse in China to research technologies that support a modern 21st century city with integrated IT, healthcare and building management.
Innovations emerging from the IoT-focused centre will enable the development of fully integrated urban environments in which sensors – applied at the individual level and all the way through to the level of large infrastructure – will enable sustainable lifestyles.
Professor Stephen Toope, the university’s vice-chancellor, visited Beijing to formalise the agreement to create the Cambridge University-Nanjing Centre of Technology and Innovation.
It will entail the establishment of a joint research nexus and the sharing of revenue derived from the commercialisation of intellectual property. It is the university’s first overseas enterprise at this scale.
Funded by Nanjing Municipality for five years in the first instance, the project will have its own dedicated building in Nanjing’s Jiangbei New Area – a pilot urban development based on high levels of technological innovation.
As well as supporting health and wellbeing in new cities, the new centre will help deliver efficient energy use through its academic and entrepreneurial activities.
The agreement will fund positions in Nanjing, both academic and management, and will allow Cambridge-based academics to engage with specific, long-term projects in Nanjing. It will also support the establishment of a professorship, based in Cambridge, with responsibility as the centre’s academic director.
The project has been driven by Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, although it is hoped that there will be opportunities to widen participation to other departments and schools.
IP generated by research funded through the centre will be licensed for commercialisation by the university’s innovation branch, Cambridge Enterprise.
Professor Toope said: “This is only the most recent example of our collaboration with Chinese partners – but it is by far the most ambitious to date. And it is very exciting.
“We see it as an essential part of Cambridge’s contribution to society to tackle some of the great world problems. But we cannot do this on our own. There is a proverb: ‘You cannot clap with just one hand’. To me this means that we can only accomplish great things by working together – which is what we will be doing with Nanjing.”
The launch of the Cambridge University-Nanjing Centre of Technology and Innovation came only a few days after the vice-chancellor addressed the annual China Development Forum, in Beijing.
Prof Toope said: “Of all the intangible assets that underpin our knowledge capital, the most precious is people. It is people who generate the new ideas; it is people who ask the searching questions, and collect the relevant data to answer them; it is people who make the discoveries; it is people who bring those discoveries to the market, and create the intellectual property.
“The conclusion I draw from this is that, for countries and institutions wishing to expand their knowledge capital, the single most important investment is in their human capital.”
He singled out equality and diversity as essential to the sustainability of knowledge-based capital, before concluding: “’Knowledge itself is power’ is a famous line attributed to one of Cambridge’s most famous graduates – 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon.
“The question before us – particularly those of us in universities – is how we build and deploy and share all that knowledge for the greater good.”
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