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Water faucetIn efforts to solve pressing global issues such as clean and safe water and next-generation transportation as the world's population grows, University of Michigan leaders are entering into several agreements with Chinese institutions.

S. Jack Hu, U-M vice president for research, is in China this month along with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has been working to strengthen collaborations between the state of Michigan and China.

"Societal challenges such as water quality and the safety and sustainability of transportation transcend national borders," said Hu, who is also the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing at Michigan Engineering. "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."

The agreements, some of which are preliminary, add up to more than $54 million to jumpstart and advance research in key areas.

Clean water technology

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 innovation-focused organization founded by 14 Chinese universities. The Collaboratory is slated to have three sites: Ann Arbor, Beijing and Shenzhen. The funding is expected to be divided among those locations.

At U-M, the effort will be led by Lutgarde Raskin, the Altarum/ERIM Russell O'Neal Professor of Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering. The Collaboratory's goal is to identify technology gaps in water treatment and monitoring and develop solutions to provide clean and safe water to the world's urban environments. Leaders at the institutions expect to sign a full research agreement in 2017.

Automated and connected vehicles

A $2.5 million research agreement with the Chongqing Sokon Industry Group establishes the University of Michigan-Sokon Research Center in the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering. Sokon will provide funding for the center, which will advance research on connected and automated vehicles through the work of 13 faculty members, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students at both institutions.

The Chongqing Sokon Industry Group is a public company that makes and distributes auto parts. It is located in Chongqing, a city in Southwest China. The new center will be led by Huei Peng, the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of U-M's Mobility Transformation Center. Sokon is also establishing an independent tech center in the state of Michigan.

Robotics, automated and connected vehicles

A $27 million research agreement with Shenzhen-based investment firm Frontt Capital Management will advance autonomous, connected vehicles and robotic technologies.

This agreement puts in place measures that U-M and Frontt agreed to in a memorandum of understanding signed last month in China. It establishes a Joint Research Center for Intelligent Vehicles at U-M. It contributes 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.

It also provides support for U-M researchers to advise Frontt on design of a unique autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen. The facility will simulate the country's unique transportation environment.

These three agreements are in addition to 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.

Also in October, the U-M/Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute approved a program to develop the next generation of leaders for the automotive industry. The two-week Executive Development Program launches April 28, 2017, at the Shanghai Auto Show. EDP is designed to equip tomorrow's C-suite executives in future of the global auto industry. Developed in partnership between Michigan's Ross School of Business and the Joint Institute, the EDP will include sessions in Shanghai, Ann Arbor and Palo Alto.

"The University of Michigan and China have a long history together, dating back nearly 170 years," Snyder said. "With a strong research base, world-class business school program and a focus on driverless vehicle development, the university shares many areas of common interest and expertise with Chinese companies and partner university programs."


Innovating in transportation is a top priority for the U-M College of Engineering's transformational campaign currently underway. Find out more about transforming mobility in the Victors for Michigan campaign.

About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.