Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute inaugurated in China

Some 200 guests turned out Tuesday, Oct. 20, for a ceremony to inaugurate the new Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI) in Shenzhen, China. The joint research institute provides a platform for innovative research and graduate student education to fuel economic growth, solve global problems and train industry leaders.

With headquarters in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District — the heart of China’s Silicon Valley — TBSI aims to be a world-class transformative research and education institute, combining the skills and expertise of more than 50 faculty and graduate student researchers from Tsinghua University and UC Berkeley as well as industrial partners from more than 40 corporations.

Dignitaries launch TBSITBSI opened on Oct. 20 at the push of a button. From left: TBSI Co-Director Connie Chang-Hasnain, Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin, Berkeley Vice Chancellor John Wilton,  Shenzhen Party Secretary Ma Xingrui, Tsinghua EVP Cheng Jianping and Tsinghua VP Yang Bin.The establishment of TBSI builds on a relationship of over 40 years between Berkeley and Tsinghua and was led by the College of Engineering, which has a strong history of individual faculty collaborations with Tsinghua colleagues across engineering disciplines as well as a five-year collaboration in an entrepreneurship education program for Tsinghua graduate engineers developed with the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.

TBSI officially opened at the push of a button, literally, one each pressed by Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Administration & Finance John Wilton, College of Engineering Associate Dean for Strategic Alliances and TBSI Co-Director Connie Chang-Hasnain, Shenzhen Party Secretary Ma Xingrui, Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin, Tsinghua Executive Vice President Cheng Jianping and Tsinghua Vice President Yang Bin.

“This day represents an incredible milestone marking substantive collaboration between two of the best universities in the world,” said Wilton. “With TBSI, Berkeley and Tsinghua University will be partnering to address societal needs and global challenges, and the new institute will promote a new level of education internationalization.”

The Oct. 20 inauguration included tours of the brand-new, 162,000-square-foot facility. Visitors got a first-hand look at TBSI’s student lounges, faculty offices and exhibition hall. The Shenzhen facility will house research centers in three areas: environment and new energy; information technology and data science; and precision medicine and healthcare. These centers, including 16 laboratories co-led by Berkeley and Tsinghua professors, will address collaboration topics and expand faculty engagement from across both institutions. TBSI will also have offices at Berkeley for program administration and visiting students and industrial fellows, as well as space to host workshops.

A key supporter of this partnership is the Shenzhen municipal government, along with global companies in Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta region. More than 30 companies have signed up to join the TBSI industrial advisory board. “With the operation of the institute, we could anticipate stronger industry-university research cooperation and a more efficient technology transfer process,” said Chang-Hasnain.

Besides faculty from the two universities, TBSI will also recruit top researchers globally and conduct innovative, cutting-edge research with active participation by graduate students. “I hope we not only can have the strengths from Berkeley and Tsinghua, but also create a research institute with a unique branding,” said Yang Bin, vice president of Tsinghua University and member of TBSI oversight committee. “The new institute will feature 3 I’s: Interdisciplinary, International and Industry-partnership,” said Yang. To complement Yang’s remarks, Chang-Hasnain expressed her own vision for TBSI’s impact on research and education with 3 T’s: Translational, Transdisciplinary and Transformative.

TBSI’s research programs will enable Berkeley and Tsinghua graduate students to spend time at the partner institution for up to one year of research or study. Participating Berkeley graduate students will be able to study at Tsinghua University or hold internships with companies in Shenzhen. Similarly, participating Tsinghua students will benefit from joint research supervision by Berkeley and Tsinghua faculty. The first cohort of 35 Ph.D. students began their first semester of study in September 2015.