Forging international research collaborations

Taking research to a higher level with global impact is the key aim of a raft of new international collaborations.

Pictured at the British Council in New Delhi, India, are (front row, from left) Professor Hai-Sui Yu (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: International), Muhammed Basheer (Chair in Structural Engineering at Leeds), Dr Samit Chakrabarty (Lecturer, School of Biomedical Science, Leeds), Professor Linda McGowan (Pro-Dean International: Faculty of Medicine and Health), Shweta Datt (Country Adviser for Leeds, based in New Delhi) and Dr Bhoopesh Mishra (University Academic fellow SCAPE) with (back row, from left) Dr Edward Venn (Associate Professor, School of Music) and Professor Iain Clacher (Pro-Dean International: LUBS)

Leeds has signed six new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreements with high-profile institutions around the world and extended another.

Four of these were signed during the recent visit to India by Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: International. He led a delegation of 10 academics to the country, visiting 19 institutions in five cities.

His route home took him via China for an MoU signing with the country’s equivalent of the UK Food Standard Agency.

And the other two agreements were signed with institutions in South Korea and Pakistan, during their respective trips to the Leeds campus.

All the MoUs were signed to promote collaboration on a wide range of academic and research activities and initiatives.

Professor Yu said: “We are very happy to sign agreements with such prestigious institutions and organisations.

“These collaborations will enable the development of major projects that will take research to a higher level with global impact.

“All the agreements underscore the University’s commitment and continued focus on developing purposeful partnerships with overseas institutions.

“Working with such outstanding international partners helps ensure our research and education makes a difference across the world. No matter how Brexit unfolds, such successful partnerships will remain critically important to us.”

Professor Hai-Sui Yu and Dr Anju Seth, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, after the MoU signing. October 2019Professor Hai-Sui Yu and Dr Anju Seth, Director of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, after the MoU signing

Indian agreements

Leeds has signed new MoUs with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, SRM Institute of Science and Technology Chennai and the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET) Patiala, as well as extending its MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras.

The alliance with IIM Calcutta – one of the oldest and most prestigious business schools in India – focuses on collaborative research activities through Leeds University Business School (LUBS). This will include co-development of graduate and doctoral courses, conferences, seminars and the exchange of visiting scholars, researchers and graduate and doctoral students.

Professor N Sethuraman, Registrar at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, and Professor Muhammed Basheer, Chair in Structural Engineering at Leeds, shake on the MoU agreement. October 2019Professor N Sethuraman, Registrar at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, and Professor Muhammed Basheer, Chair in Structural Engineering at Leeds, shake on the MoU agreement 

The MoU between Leeds and SRM focuses on joint research projects and conferences, seminars, workshops and other academic interaction meetings, along with faculty and student exchanges. SRM is among the top 10 engineering colleges in the country, according to the India Today rankings 2018.

Pictured at the MoU signing with Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology Patiala are (front row, from left) Professor Prakash Gopalan (Thapar Director Thapar) and Professor Hai-Sui Yu with (back row, from left) Dr Bhoopesh Mishra (University Academic fellow SCAPE, Leeds), Shweta Datt (Country Adviser for Leeds, based in New Delhi) and Dr Ajay Batish (Deputy Director International) 

This agreement is mirrored in the collaboration with TIET, although this MoU will also focus on a joint project in the area of Chemical Engineering. The universities will be offering a four-year BE Chemical Engineering programme, which will entail spending two years each at both institutions, obtaining an award of BEng Chemical Engineering from Leeds. A scholarship worth £3-5,000 will also be offered for the course. TIET is one of the leading private engineering colleges in India and is looking to collaborate with Leeds in Law and Liberal arts.

Signing an MoU are Professor Muhammed Basheer, Chair in Structural Engineering at Leeds, and Professor Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean for International and Alumni Relations at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. October 2019Signing an MoU are Professor Muhammed Basheer, Chair in Structural Engineering at Leeds, and Professor Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean for International and Alumni Relations at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras 

The MoU with IIT Madras will be extended for a further three years and will reiterate our commitment to considering closer collaborations in several different areas. IIT Madras is one of India’s institutions of national importance in higher technological education, together with basic and applied research. It was ranked the number one engineering institution in India in 2018 by the country’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).

Professor Yu said: “Our immediate goal is to establish research links and encourage student exchange between India and the UK, drawing talent and building synergies between the two countries.

“We welcome the UK Government’s new announcement reinstating the two-year post study visa for international students, which will make a real difference to Indian students looking at studying in the UK.”

Professor Hai-Sui Yu (front row, third from right) and Jiang Lu, Director General at China FSA (front row, centre) with colleagues at the signing of the MoU between the two institutions. October 2019Professor Hai-Sui Yu (front row, third from right) and Jiang Lu, Director General at China FSA (front row, centre) with colleagues at the signing of the MoU between the two institutions 

Food for thought

From India, Professor Yu travelled to Beijing for the signing of an MoU with China FSA (CFSA).

The equivalent of the UK Food Standard Agency, the organisation is responsible for food safety standards, regulations, governance and management throughout China.

CFSA has excellent research laboratories working on food safety, nutrition and toxic chemical detection and surveillance.

Professor Yun Yun Gong, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition (FSN) at Leeds, who arranged the China visit, has collaborated with CFSA on food safety risk assessment for a number of years. Dr Michelle Morris, a University Academic Fellow from the Leeds Institute of Medical Research (LIMR), visited CFSA two years ago, discussing big data in food safety. And FSN recently hosted an excellent research visitor from CFSA.

Professor Yu said: “There is great synergy between Leeds and CFSA on a range of activities in food safety, nutrition and big data.

“The CFSA has recently prioritised its international collaboration. It has set up MOUs with the German and French government food safety organisations and the European Food Safety Authority.

“CFSA expressed a keen interest in working with us. Strategically, CFSA is a strong partner for promoting our research profile and delivering high impact research.”

Professor Hai-Sui Yu and Dr Chong Jai Kim (both front, centre) with fellow senior colleagues from both institutions. October 2019Professor Hai-Sui Yu and Dr Chong Jai Kim (both front, centre) with fellow senior colleagues from Leeds and the Asan Medical Center

Medical partnership

Joint research projects were the subject of a recent visit to Leeds by Asan Medical Center (sic).

Asan Medical Center (AMC) is the largest hospital in South Korea. Located in the capital, Seoul, it is the parent of a network of eight hospitals across the country that form the ASAN Foundation.

Its medical specialities include cancer and heart institutes, as well as a children’s hospital. It is also affiliated with the University of Ulsan. AMC founded a research institute – Asan Institute for Life Sciences (AILS) – in 1990 and relocated to a new building next to the hospital in 2011. AILS research focusses on drug development, cell therapy, medical devices and digital healthcare

Seven visitors from AMC, including Dr Chong Jai Kim, AILS Chairman and Chief Research Officer, met on campus with Professor Yu; Professor Jim Deuchars, Pro-Dean International: Faculty of Biological Sciences; three Heads of School – Professor Richard Bayliss (Molecular and Cellular Biology), Professor Karen Birch (Biomedical Sciences) and Professor Colin Fishwick (Chemistry); and many of our researchers.

They also took part in a joint research mini-symposium and toured facilities in Engineering, Chemistry, Nexus, the Astbury Centre and Brenner building at St James’s University Hospital.

Professor Bayliss said: “Thank you to all colleagues who helped showcase the wide range of outstanding research facilities and expertise we have at Leeds to our visitors from the Asan Medical Center.

“This visit marks a significant stage of our commitment to collaborate on the development of new treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and asthma.”

Four joint research projects are ongoing, involving Leeds researchers in the Schools of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Chemistry. Following pilot studies, the partnership aims to obtain funding from UK and Korean sources.

Professors Yu and Bayliss plan to visit AMC next year to discuss a possible strategic partnership in precision medicine and drug development.

Professor Bayliss added: “Both parties agree there is enormous scope for collaboration between the two institutions. We would welcome ideas for further collaborative projects from across the University, for example in biological sciences, chemistry, medical devices, digital healthcare and drug development.”

Contact Professor Bayliss for further information.

Signing of the MoU between Leeds and FJMU are Dr Hussain Jafri and Professor Yasmin Rashid (both from Fatima Jinnah Medical University), Dr Shenaz Ahmed (Leeds Institute of Health Science), Professor Aamir Zaman Khan (FJMU) and Professor Linda McGowan (Pro-Dean International: Faculty of Medicine and Health)

Fostering greater collaboration

Leeds has also signed an MoU with Fatima Jinnah Medical University (FJMU) in Pakistan.

Professor Linda McGowan, Pro-Dean International: Faculty of Medicine and Health, and Professor Aamir Zaman Khan, Vice-Chancellor, FJMU, performed the official honours during a ceremony attended and endorsed by Professor Yasmin Rashid, the Minister for Health in the Punjab province.

The new alliance will build on the longstanding, successful collaboration between Leeds Institute of Health Science (LIHS) and FJMU. It outlines the shared intention of both organisations to continue to grow and expand their successful research, initially focusing on maternal and child health; cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment; and the prevention of genetic conditions.

With a Medical Research Council development grant secured – for supporting relatives of children with beta-thalassemia major in Pakistan to make informed decisions about cascade screening (a mechanism for identifying people at risk of a genetic condition by a process of systematic family tracing) – the collaborators have already laid the foundations for expansion and future collaborative research.

Professor McGowan said: “The MoU with FJMU will enable Leeds to foster greater collaborations in Pakistan.

“In particular, it will enable Leeds to extend its global research agenda. With the endorsement of the Minister for Health in the Punjab province, the MoU will serve to establish and implement joint efforts to develop applied health research proposals that clearly benefit the health and wellbeing of patients.

“The new alliance will be led by Dr Shenaz Ahmed (LIHS) and Dr Hussain Jafri (FJMU). They have developed a shared strategy, outlining the intention of both organisations to grow and expand their research.”

New alliances

These latest MoUs follow hot on the heels of other significant partnership agreements secured by Leeds this year.

One such example is an alliance with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany – one of Europe’s largest research and educational institutions – which was announced in March. It builds on a longstanding collaboration between the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS) at Leeds and KIT’s Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research – two of Europe’s renowned research institutes for atmospheric science.

 

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