UW office in Shanghai seen as innovative, connecting

Interim Chancellor David Ward described the launch of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Innovation Office in Shanghai as the start of a “China-Plus Initiative”—a unique presence for promoting and facilitating UW engagement across East Asia.

“This is envisioned as part of the Educational Innovation initiative,” Ward said, referring to the current campus-wide effort to promote reforms in academic structures, policies and programs.

The chancellor spoke March 14 at the start of a gathering to inform faculty and staff about plans for the UW’s first overseas outpost, which is scheduled to open in June. About 100 people, representing 60 units, attended the event, where they were invited to consider how this office can serve units from across campus.

The Shanghai office builds upon the university’s long history of ties with China and will serve multiple purposes in deepening UW engagement there, Ward said.

He viewed it as “a way of connecting knowledge spheres,” such as the UW and Chinese universities, companies in Wisconsin and China, the University Research Park in Madison and Zizhu Science Park in Shanghai (where the UW office will be located).

“And out of that comes a better understanding of issues like technology transfer,” he said.

In conjunction with the opening of the Shanghai office, UW is sponsoring a June conference on innovation in Shanghai.

“It will evolve … It’s a pilot,” Ward said. “I’m happy to be briefly on board while this takes place.”

The chancellor was the first of several speakers at the March 14 event.

“What we are proposing to do in Shanghai is both far-reaching and modest,” said Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies and vice provost for globalization.

“Although conceived around big ideas, the UW-Madison presence itself will be a small office in a Shanghai research park, staffed by a full-time director and a student intern,” Bousquet explained.

“The key is leveraging—leveraging UW’s reputation, expertise, and relationships to accomplish great things with minimal risk.”

The university is making a three-year investment of seed funds expected to cover about half of the cost of operating the office, to leverage the contributions of the university’s Chinese partners. Beyond three years, the office is expected to be self-sustaining.

“The Shanghai Innovation Office will serve as a cost-efficient, sustainable platform for offering non-degree professional training in areas where our Chinese partners have needs and UW-Madison has a competitive edge,” Bousquet said.

The office also is expected to play a role in promoting faculty collaborations, expanding international academic opportunities for students, and working with the State of Wisconsin and others to advance the state’s economic interests in the region.

“Importantly, the Shanghai office will provide UW–Madison with a full-time human presence in China, which will greatly enhance our capacity to engage with alumni, students, and other partners,” Bousquet said. “We cannot understate the value of direct human contacts when it comes to sustaining and building relationships. In our trips to China over the past two years, we have engaged with a loyal group of Badger alumni.”

(Read the full text of Dean Bousquet’s remarks

“Shanghai is a natural place to be located if you are going to be in China,” said John Ohnesorge, director of the Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Center (EALSC).

“A lot of coincidences led to a really unique opportunity,” said Ohnesorge, the faculty chair of the Wisconsin China Initiative and the faculty lead for the launch of the Shanghai office.

In providing legal services training for Minhang District government officials for the past six years, the Legal Studies Center has developed close working relationships in Shanghai, according to Ohnesorge.

In addition, two of UW–Madison’s key institutional partners in China—Shanghai Jiao Tong University and East China Normal University—have opened new campuses within the Minhang District. Both campuses are across the street from the Zizhu Science Park, where the UW office will be located.

The UW office will benefit by its proximity to these top universities, but maintain flexibility and independence by not be located on any particular campus.

“The more I learned about this office, the more excited I got,” said Gene Phillips, faculty director of the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and professor of Japanese art history.

Phillips is leading the development of the Shanghai Seminar Series, which will provide opportunities for UW-Madison faculty to travel to Shanghai to host seminars for colleagues from China and across East Asia. The series is designed to encourage new and ongoing scholarly collaborations among UW-Madison faculty and their peers at universities across East Asia.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for faculty across the campus to become engaged with what is happening at the UW office in Shanghai,” Phillips said.

“The inaugural seminar in 2012 will focus on humanities, arts, and social sciences, but future topics may come from any discipline,” he said. “We plan to hold two seminars per year.”

“We see this as a place where we can do entrepreneurial innovation,” said Anne Miner, faculty director of the Initiative for Studies in Transformational Entrepreneurship (INSITE) and professor of management and human resources in the Wisconsin School of Business.

Miner described this model as offering opportunities for new ways to create value, going beyond standard forms of engagement, and supporting continuous learning.

“We see this as an exciting, fantastic venue,” she said.

UW has been collaborating on medical research with institutions in Asia for at least 30 years, said Dr. George Wilding, director of UW’s Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Donald and Marilyn Anderson Professor of Medicine.

“I think that with China’s rapidly growing research institutes, there are many opportunities for clinical research collaborations,” Wilding said. He also made note of the large number of cancer patients in China.

“The Shanghai office would be great help in facilitating what we’d like to do in China,” he said.

— by Kerry G. Hill