Innovation Institute Signs Partnership with Tsinghua University

Issue Date: 
February 15, 2016

The University of Pittsburgh and one of China’s leading universities, Tsinghua University in Beijing, have signed an agreement intended to spur collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches to research and commercialization, as well as to support innovation and entrepreneurship activities at both universities. 

“This relationship will build on the strengths of both our universities and represents an opportunity for the University of Pittsburgh to create a cooperative educational model with one of China’s premier universities for the training of faculty, staff, and students in global innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Marc Malandro, founding director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We look forward to working with Tsinghua to advance the commercialization of technologies on a global scale that address many of society’s biggest challenges.”

Established in 1911, Tsinghua has 14 schools and 56 departments with faculties in science, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, history, philosophy, economics, management, education, and art. Enrollment is nearly 26,000, divided almost evenly between undergraduate and graduate students.

James Cook, Pitt’s Asian Studies Center acting director, noted: “The new Tsinghua relationship complements Pitt’s already-strong presence in China and Asia. The newest Tsinghua affiliation will allow our faculty and students to access a new research and market environment that provides even greater opportunity for Pitt to prosper and succeed. It is another sign of our success in becoming a truly global center of learning and invention.”

The agreement outlines several proposed initial areas of collaboration, with activities including:

• The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute will provide seminars on its Pitt Ventures innovation-commercialization approach and related topics at Tsinghua.

• The universities will plan semi-annual technology showcases in Beijing for Chinese strategic and financial partners to evaluate innovations emerging from both organizations.

• The universities will examine opportunities for commercializing innovations in each other’s regions.

• Both parties will facilitate faculty, student, and staff participation in business-plan competitions and other innovation/entrepreneurship events held at the partner institution.

“Tsinghua University and the University of Pittsburgh both emphasize the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship and support our respective faculty and students in commercializing their research,” said Qinxian Jin, vice secretary-general and dean of the Office of Technology Transfer at Tsinghua.

“We hope that through cooperation, students and faculty from both universities can innovate and build successful startups and produce collaborative research,” he added. “More importantly, through our cooperation, we will provide access to the market, government, and enterprise resources we possess in China. The University of Pittsburgh has many outstanding scientific and technological achievements, and, by leveraging our resources, we can accelerate the technology-transfer process and increase the efficiency of commercialization.”

Jin continued: “We will cooperate in building a foundation in Pittsburgh for the internationalization of homegrown Chinese enterprises and supporting the Pittsburgh economy. The two universities will strive to further strengthen Sino-U.S. cooperation in the industrial sector.”

The new Innovation Institute partnership is Pitt’s second significant engagement with Tsinghua. The Pitt School of Medicine began a collaborative education and research partnership with Tsinghua in 2011 that brings medical and graduate students to Pittsburgh for two years of mentored training in biomedical research. More than 50 Tsinghua students have completed the program and returned to Beijing to complete their medical education.

To better serve Pitt’s expanding innovation ecosystem, the University launched the Innovation Institute in 2013 as a one-stop destination for Pitt innovators interested in moving their discoveries from the lab to the marketplace and for external industry and investment partners who can facilitate this process.

On the strength of $760 million in annual sponsored research, Pitt faculty, researchers, and students are making exciting discoveries in areas ranging from cancer detection and treatment to gene therapy, drug discovery and delivery, medical devices, regenerative medicine, advanced materials, nanoscience, computer science, engineering, energy, education, and more.

Translating that research for societal impact, Pitt innovators have been issued nearly 260 patents since FY 2012, and the University has approved more than 570 licenses/options.

The Innovation Institute provides a comprehensive suite of services, from the patenting of intellectual property to the commercialization of new discoveries through licensing and/or new enterprise development. The institute also provides a wealth of educational programming, mentoring, and networking for Pitt faculty, students, and partners, as well as for entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout Western Pennsylvania.