University officials announced a multi-million dollar research partnership with a prominent Chinese university yesterday that will focus on renewable energy and biomedical research.

The move signifies a growing relationship between the University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China — with which the University already collaborates on educational efforts within the College of Engineering.

A press release issued by the University yesterday outlined the terms of the collaboration, in which the University and Shanghai Jiao Tong will each commit $3 million to the effort over the next five years.

That financing will complete the first phase of the program, but according to the release, both institutions expect to take advantage of federal matching programs for future work.

A call for project proposals was issued yesterday in Ann Arbor and Shanghai. The press release specified that all proposals must include researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the University of Michigan and that all grant proposals will have an initial $200,000 annual funding cap.

The first grants are expected to be given in late June.

Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at the University, said in a press release that the new research collaboration provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the University.

“By collaborating on renewable energy and biomedical research projects, we have a unique opportunity to move our innovations much more quickly toward the marketplace, where they can begin to benefit people across the globe,” Forrest said in the release. “I cannot think of two other areas of research that can have a greater impact on the environment and the quality of life of people worldwide.”

The goal of the renewable energy partnership is to identify renewable energy projects that have commercial potential to reduce global carbon emissions and that will attract research funding from government and industry in both the United States and China, according to the release. Possible topics to be funded include clean coal technology, building efficiency and clean vehicles.

The program in biomedical technology aims to improve technology used in the health care industry and will focus on topics including diagnostic and therapeutic imaging, minimal and non-invasive therapy — used to minimize surgical risks and recovery time — and bio-nanotechnology, which allows many specific procedures to be carried out at the microscopic level.

The biomedical technologies part of the partnership will also address tissue engineering and biomaterials. In addition, researchers will study biomedical devices like surgical instruments and in vitro diagnostics, neural engineering and rehabilitation and medical informatics — the use of computers and information within medicine.

Forrest wrote in the release that he is looking forward to the partnership.

“The research strengths of our two universities are quite complementary,” he said in the release.

Yesterday’s announcement ends several months of University officials being tight lipped on the issue, as Forrest made multiple trips to China to continue negotiations.

When asked about the ongoing negotiations in a January interview with The Michigan Daily, University President Mary Sue Coleman indicated that the project might focus on alternative energy, since matching money was available at the federal level, but she said that nothing had been formalized.

“We are looking for research opportunities and partnerships and there are some discussions, but there’s nothing that’s happened. Nothing has been signed,” Coleman said at the time. “I hope they’re interested because it would be a good opportunity to do some interesting research.”

Coleman added, “I think there’s an opportunity particularly in areas that might be of mutual interest.”

University Provost Teresa Sullivan echoed Coleman’s comments in a January interview with the Daily.

“It’s a little too soon to tell what it might mature into, but I think that there is interest on both sides in the existing partnership in making it deeper and more substantive than it already is,” Sullivan said at the time, adding that the University’s relationship with Shanghai Jiao Tong has already proven valuable for some Engineering students.

In December, Sullivan had hinted at a possible research investment with Shanghai Jiao Tong University that would have financial benefits for the University. However, in January, Sullivan said she was only using the example as a way to explain non-traditional partnerships.

“It’s not an investment in the sense that we’re selling them stock or something. It’s more that we have been talking about research possibilities together,” Sullivan said at the time. “That’s a conversation that’s ongoing.”

Sullivan also said the research collaboration could be a valuable addition to the North Campus Research Complex.

“We see (the NCRC) as a space for collaboration that we didn’t really have before and now it opens up this possibility and since Shanghai Jiao Tong we’ve had a really good exchange now of student and faculty going both ways,” she said at the time. “They were kind of a logical partner to talk to about whether there was potential there.”

The new research partnerships between the University and Shanghai Jiao Tong have come after years of collaboration between the two schools. The University became the first American institution authorized by the Chinese government to give graduate degrees in engineering to students in China.

In 2005 the two universities strengthened their partnership by forming a joint institute to manage and direct degree-granting programs offered by both universities to students from both nations.

Ties with the Shanghai Jiao Tong will be further strengthened this summer when Coleman travels to China.

Earlier this year Shanghai Jiao Tong was reported to be associated with cyberattacks made to Google. A Feb. 18 New York Times article reported that the cyberattacks were traced to computers at Shanghai Jiao Tong. The hackers got into the Gmail accounts of human rights activists as well as the accounts of 34 companies. SJTU representatives denied that the University had any involvement in the attack.

— Daily Staff Reporter Joseph Lichterman and Lindsey Mandich contributed to this report.

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