AUSTRALIA is well placed to be a significant player in China's scientific boom because of the quality of its universities, its location in the Asia Pacific and strong personal connections made over the past 30 years, says one of its most senior scientists.
And new collaborations addressing areas of common concern would bring together Australia's foremost blue skies researchers with China's technical skills and massive infrastructure investment.
Chunli Bai, president of the Chinese Academy of Science, said while Chinese research output was now second only to the US, too much was of inferior quality.
"We must increase the quality of much of that research, as well as the number of patents and connections with industry," Professor Bai said.
The Chinese government was keen to set in place the "organised flow of basic science to commercialisation", he said.
One way to do that was to tap into existing pockets of research excellence, such as existed in Australia.
Simon Marginson, an international education expert from the University of Melbourne, said the Chinese were keen to leverage "our global research strengths in clinical medicine, health systems, plant and animal sciences, ecology, climate and water, and agriculture".
Yesterday, Professor Bai met with senior scientists in Canberra with genomics, infectious diseases, medical bionics, stem cells and nanotechnology under discussion.
Bob Williamson, the Australian Academy of Science's policy secretary, said Australia increasingly shared complex issues with China, as it evolved into a first-world nation.
In the past 15 years, China's health profile has changed dramatically and is now almost identical to Australia's, with ageing and obesity looming large. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory conditions are now the most common diseases in both countries.
Professor Bai, who was an early international leader in the field of nanotechnology, or the science of engineering matter on an atomic or molecular scale, was also interested in establishing a research partnership to develop storage of renewable energies.
Early work in the field is being being conducted at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. Professor Bai was on the institute's advisory panel before taking up his role as president of the CAS last year.
"For there to be cooperation between two countries and two institutions, the basis is the connection and the friendship. When we want to push forward a synergy, there are two ways: top down with agreements and a framework and then there is the personal connections, the friendships and mutual trust," Professor Bai said.
Professor Marginson said Australia was on the edge of a third wave of internationalisation of higher education that would include expanded research collaborations with Asia, including China.
Professor Bai was in Brisbane last week for the first annual BioNano Innovation conference hosted by AIBN.
Source: Higher Education