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The many ways that UNSW is tapping into China’s opportunities

The many ways that UNSW is tapping into China’s opportunities

University of New South Wales (UNSW) is exploring using the renminbi (RMB) in a bid to become the leading China-ready university in Australia, if not the world.

China is its single-largest international partner country, with UNSW tracking towards securing $100 million in investment from Chinese companies to fund research and development (R&D). Chinese students also account for 55% of UNSW’s international student revenue, making China a critical source of income.

China’s government regards what it terms ‘mass innovation and mass entrepreneurship’ as critical to the realignment of China’s economy and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts China will be the world’s largest R&D investor by 2019. Meanwhile China’s international student population has grown at double-digit rates for the past decade and is expected to continue that growth trajectory for another decade. Both projections indicate that China will assume even greater importance for UNSW.

Laurie Pearcey, Executive Director – International at UNSW Australia, believes UNSW could be doing even more to attract Chinese students and investors. He joined UNSW in 2012 with the ambition of it becoming the leading China-ready university in Australia, if not the world. That’s why UNSW is exploring the ability to invoice its Chinese R&D partners in RMB, and expanding on its acceptance of RMB from Chinese students. Students can pay fees online using their cards on UNSW’s payment portal. Alternatively they can go to Australia Post to use China UnionPay.

The solar connection

Australia’s blue sky, clean air and endowment of world-class universities help make it the third most popular destination for Chinese international students. The fact that UNSW produced the world’s most efficient solar cell technology also hugely appeals to Chinese companies. Most of the technical teams of all China’s big solar players graduated from UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy and they maintain active R&D linkages with UNSW.

UNSW is building on that foundation with a high-level agreement with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to build its Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW by 2025.

In the three months since Torch was launched, it has attracted $30 million of investment. There is at least another $70 million in the pipeline to extend UNSW’s capabilities in solar in areas such as advanced materials, energy storage, drug discovery, membrane technology and water treatment. Eight Chinese companies have supported phase one of the project to date and UNSW is talking with more than 30 others about significant investments.

UNSW’S R&D partners are interested in RMB payment solutions because it can make it more convenient for them to move money into Australia. This is something that UNSW is investigating.

Greater alignment between industry and research

Despite UNSW’s ground-breaking research in areas like solar cell technology and quantum computing, not all university research leads to translatable outcomes. Torch is one way that UNSW is addressing this so-called ‘valley of death.’

One Torch project involves helping a company to use graphene in power cables as a much more efficient transmitter of electricity. UNSW will have an equity stake in a new joint venture in China to commercialise the technology. The $10 million investment goes to UNSW to fund its R&D while the outputs go to China and are commercialised to make companies more competitive.

Another facilitator of UNSW’s China-ready ambitions is the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA). UNSW can now market and recruit directly, bypassing red tape and it promises greater mobility for staff and students. ChAFTA is part of UNSW’s value proposition when talking to potential students and R&D partners in China.

To discuss how we can help you conduct business in China using the RMB, contact our RMB and China Solutions Team on RMBSolutions@cba.com.au