U-M to Establish New China Partnerships Valued at $54M


Leaders with the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan are entering into several agreements with Chinese institutions. The agreements, some of which are preliminary, add up to more than $54 million and will contribute to research in key areas, such as autonomous vehicles and water safety.

“Societal challenges such as water quality and the safety and sustainability of transportation transcend national borders,” says S. Jack Hu, president for research at U-M who is in China this month along with Gov. Rick Snyder. “These collaborations bring together the complementary expertise, resources, and cultural perspectives of the U.S. and China to find realistic solutions to these extraordinarily complex global problems for the benefit of all.”

A memorandum of understanding with the Beijing Institute for Collaborative Innovation and the Southern University of Science and Technology aims to establish a Global Collaboratory in Water Technology. Funding for the $25 million, five-year partnership would be provided by the Beijing Institute, an organization founded by 14 Chinese universities.

The collaboratory is expected to have three sites — Ann Arbor, Beijing, and Shenzhen — and funding will be divided among those locations.

Lutgarde Raskin, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, will lead the effort of the collaboratory at U-M, which will identify technology gaps in water treatment and monitoring and develop solutions to provide clean and safe water to urban environments.

A $2.5 million research agreement with the Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, which manufactures and distributes auto parts, will establish the University of Michigan-Sokon Research Center in U-M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. The center will work to advance research on connected and automated vehicles through the work of 13 faculty members, researchers, and graduate students at both institutions.

Huei Peng, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center will lead the new center, which will be funded by Sokon.

A $27 million research agreement with Shenzhen-based investment firm Frontt Capital Management will establish a Joint Research Center for Intelligent Vehicles at U-M. It will also contribute toward construction of the recently approved Robotics Laboratory and a vehicle garage on U-M’s North Campus near Mcity, the simulated urban-suburban environment for testing connected and automated vehicles.

As part of the agreement, U-M researchers will also advise Frontt on design of an autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen.

These three agreements follow a memorandum of understanding on a $25 million Global Collaboratory in Advanced Manufacturing that U-M entered into in October with Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation and the Southern University of Science and Technology.

The institutions aim to formalize the Global Collaboratory early next year.

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