New ocean research initiative in China

The University of Bergen has entered into an expansive collaboration in marine research with the Ocean University of China in Qingdao.

Fra signeringen av ny avtale om marint forskningssamarbeid mellom Universitetet i Bergen og Ocean University China, i Qingdao april 2018.
CHINA COLLABORATION: UiB's Rector Dag Rune Olsen and OUC President Yu Zhigang at the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the two partner universities.
Vebjørn Granum Kjersheim, UiB

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On 16-20 April 2018 Norway's Ministry of Education and Research arranged a visit in China for the Norwegian university and research sector. The University of Bergen (UiB) prolonged the visit to also include existing and future partners. The UiB leadership and representatives from the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology visited the acclaimed Ocean University of China (OUC) in the city of Qingdao.

As part of the visit in Qingdao a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by UiB and OUC, with the Sars Centre as the key UiB participant in the collaboration.

Two ocean cities joined

Qingdao has the position as China's leading ocean and marine city, just like Bergen is leading the way in Norway.

“This collaboration is important to develop marine research not just in Bergen, but all of Norway,” says UiB's Rector Dag Rune Olsen about the new MoU.

He headed the UiB delegation visiting Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM) at OUC.

“Being a marine university it is of great importance for us to have a MoU with a university that focusses as strongly and broadly on marine research as Ocean University,” says Rector Olsen whilst pointing to research on food from the ocean and development of new medicine as key parts of this collaboration.

China's leading ocean university

According to Sars Centre Director Daniel Chourrout, Qingdao is the most important city in China for marine research in general and OUC is China's leading ocean university.

“The future Chinese leaders in marine research and industry are educated in Qingdao. There are four other marine research institutes in Qingdao, who together with OUC represent a huge investment in infrastructure in the city,” says Chourrout.

China has decided to have ten so-called “national laboratories”, one for each of ten defined major focus areas in research and development.

“QNML is the national lab for the marine sciences. If we may compare, then OUC is UiB and QNML is what we in Bergen's marine research environments dream of at Marineholmen by bringing together all the city's marine research in one place,” says the Sars Centre director.

The MoU opens for a further expansion of the research and education cooperation between UiB and OUC, where the goal would be another MoU with the aim of establishing a joint research centre in marine biology.

“The goal is that OUC can open its own Sars Centre named Sars-Fang. There are discussions between colleagues at UiB and OUC on an agreement that will propose just such a centre and look at how this may be financed by OUC and local and central authorities in China,” says Chourrout.

He points to the collaboration through the Nansen-Zhu Centre in Beijing as a model for a new marine research and development centre in Qingdao. At Nansen-Zhu there has been a very successful collaboration between Norwegian climate scientists and Chinese colleagues for 15 years – a jubilee which was duly celebrated during the official Norwegian visit to China.

Impressive marine research environment

Ocean University has a sizeable fleet of research vessels and infrastructure that will be of great help to UiB-researchers working in and with Chinese partners.

“We visited a university with an impressive marine research community spreading across a broad range of disciplines. For example we witnessed interesting research initiatives in aquaculture, fisheries and marine molecular biology. QLMN coordinates a large fleet of research vessels. Qingdao holds the key marine research communities in China and wide-ranging research that will aid our scientists in China,” says UiB's Marine Director Amund Maage.

The research company NORCE, which consists of several institutions in research and innovation in Southern and Western Norway and where UiB is one of the co-owners, are also involved in the OUC collaboration. Not the least through the recently established Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Innovations (CSAI).

“The national lab in Qingdao is one of the things that impressed me the most during the visit. There is a lot of research and infrastructure focused on visualisation and digitalisation of marine resources,” says Lars Ebbesson, who represented NORCE in Qingdao.

“This technology is very interesting for CSAI and aquaculture research. The Chinese are also building a new site with wet-labs, which could be a promising collaborator to CSAI.”