Closer ties with Chinese universities, more student and academic exchanges, and the creation of a lithium mining R&D unit in Perth are already shaping up as the result of a recent conference at UWA.
The inaugural Australia-China Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation was held at the UWA campus in February. The conference attracted 261 participants, about half from China and the other half from Australia.
It was organised by Professor Guowei Ma of the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering (CEME) who is also the president of the WA Chinese Scientists Association which staged the conference.
The conference was held in collaboration with Curtin and Murdoch universities, the WA Chinese Engineers Association, and the WA Chinese Petroleum Association.
The aim of the conference was to further develop bilateral collaboration on important science and engineering issues involving Australia and China.
“Chinese universities are very keen to collaborate with foreign universities such as UWA,” says Professor Ma.
CEME already has close ties with China: it has links with some 20 universities in China and hosts visiting students and academics.
Professor Ma said the conference had a multi-disciplinary focus. “We attracted many high-profile people from China,” he said.
“We had several forums, focusing on sustainable and resilient infrastructure, medical science and public health, clean energy, agriculture and food sciences, business and entrepreneurship, and young professionals.”
Those attending included Professor Hanlong Liu, the Vice President of Chongqing University; Professor Xiuli Du, Vice President of Beijing University of Technology.
Also attending were three academics Professor Dongyuan Zhao from Fudan University, Professor Manchao He from China University of Mining and Technology, and Prof Yanliang Du from Shijiazhuang Tiedao University.
One of the outcomes is that following discussions with the Tianqi Lithium, the company said it is willing to enhance research collaborations with UWA.
“It would focus on lithium extraction, mineral processing and also battery material for fuel cells,” Professor Ma said.
The move follows the announcement late last year that the company would build a $400 million plant in WA to expand production of lithium from its Greenbushes mine to cater for the electric vehicle and energy storage markets.
Another outcome from the conference is that more Chinese students are likely to study at UWA.
“I have already received some requests from participants and delegates at the conference,” Prof. Ma says.
“They were very happy here with the research facilities and the campus, so it should be a very good opportunity for UWA.
“So we will definitely have more connections and the conference participants will introduce more students to us.”
Professor Ma said the inaugural conference was so successful that Chinese universities are keen to stage the follow-up.
“One university is Chongqing University, the vice president came for this conference and the other two are from Guangzhou and Qindao,” he said.
“It has been recommended this conference be hosted next time in Chongqing, in two years’ time.”
Photo: Prof Manchao He, China University of Mining & Technology (Beijing), member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Prof Guowei Ma.