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ILP Institute Insider

January 15, 2018

Wuxi city and MIT renew industrial research agreement

Chinese municipality and ILP create successful platform for collaboration with many firms.

Eric Bender

For seven decades, the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) has built productive partnerships between MIT faculty and industry around the world. In 2011, ILP piloted a collaboration with the city of Wuxi, China, establishing a platform for multiple organizations within the city to meet with, and in many cases support, MIT faculty and researchers.

“ILP and Wuxi city embarked on an experiment to seek a mutually-beneficial relationship,” says MIT Corporate Relations Executive Director Karl Koster. “For Wuxi, the goal was to bring MIT’s expertise in science, technology, and the management of technology to help spur economic development in the city through enriching its industrial base. For MIT, the goal was to bring challenging problems to our faculty, researchers, and students.”

The experiment was a clear success. The three-year agreement between Wuxi and ILP was renewed in 2014. In December 2017, a delegation from Wuxi, comprised of 48 senior government and industry leaders visited the Institute for a signing ceremony celebrating another three-year extension of the agreement. The delegation was led by Wuxi Director of Talent Development Ms. Ying Zhou.

Senior government and industry leaders from Wuxi visit MIT for a signing ceremony celebrating another three-year extension of the agreement.

Wuxi City is located near Shanghai, and has a population of almost seven million people. The municipality has made targeted investments aimed at developing industries around intelligent manufacturing, precision instrumentation, advanced materials, chips, microelectromechanical systems, sensors, life sciences, medical devices, and the internet of things.

Its alliance with MIT now sponsors roughly $2 million in about a dozen research agreements. The city also has supported three MIT faculty-led startups through Wuxi-based companies, and firms have given gifts to support faculty research.

“This agreement has offered very significant benefits to both MIT and to companies in Wuxi,” says Koster. “Our collaborations have run smoothly and produced significant outcomes.”

In June 2016, the partnership’s achievements were highlighted in the annual United States-China High-Level Consultation on People-on-People Exchange held in Beijing, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Vice Premier Yandong Liu.

“Under our agreement, research with promising commercial applications is underway in Wuxi as well as MIT,” says MIT Corporate Relations Senior Director Todd Glickman. Researchers on both sides of the Pacific, he notes, also have enjoyed short-term working exchanges with their partner organizations.

Among current collaborations, Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering Ju Li, is pursuing projects with four Wuxi-based companies. One collaboration with Yanbang Clab Materials has produced a new aluminum alloy. The Li Lab also has entered a long-term collaboration with Weifu High-Technology Group for research targeting lithium sulfur batteries.

In another ongoing effort, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kamal Youcef-Toumi, has joined forces with Friedrich Measurement and Control Instrument to develop a high precision measurement instrument for advanced manufacturing. The Youcef-Toumi lab’s efforts on the project, which is thought very likely to lead to industrial applications, are funded at over $800,000 in the most recent round.

In a third partnership, Associate Director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering Dr. Shuguang Zhang, collaborates with Wuxi’s Novaband Biomedical Technology on advancing the understanding of the interface between molecular and structural biology to develop new biomedical technology that eventually may pay off in pharmaceutical development. The work is being carried out at Novaband as well as MIT.

ILP also has connected Wuxi City with the MIT Chinese Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, that has introduced MIT-related startups to the municipality, and with the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) China program, through which Wuxi will provide MIT students opportunities for internships.

MIT faculty members have traveled to Wuxi, and Wuxi corporate executives and technical experts have visited the Institute frequently during the first six years of the relationship. ILP has also conducted related video conferences and symposia. In 2015, Wuxi City hosted and sponsored ILP’s second MIT China Conference, attended by 350 delegates from greater China-based ILP members.

“Overall, our agreement with Wuxi City, which was the first such ‘platform’ agreement in ILP’s history, has been very successful,” sums up ILP Program Director Graham Rong. “Organizing collaborations this way has made interactions more efficient, easier and more productive.”