From Singapore to China

Last week I was visiting two of RMIT’s priority countries, Singapore and China.

In Singapore, my focus was on building personal and institutional links.  The personal links were with Australia’s new High Commissioner, Bruce Gosper, as well as significant alumni and philanthropic contacts.   On the institutional front, it was about opening an important new institutional partnership with Singapore’s 5th autonomous university, the Singapore Institute of Technology and working with our longstanding partner, the Singapore Institute of Management on a proposal for RMIT & SIM to deliver ‘micro-credentials’ in support of Singapore’s efforts to reskill its workforce.

The changes taking shape in Singapore are really quite fascinating, and I will return to them later with a more substantial communication. I’ll focus here on the China leg of the trip, particularly the visit to Tianjin.

On this visit, the core objectives were to formalise the deepening research partnership RMIT has with Tianjin University (in Advanced Automotive Technologies and Design Innovation & 3D Printing) and to explore possibilities for productive links with the surge of entrepreurial and technological innovation taking place in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area. Thanks to our long-standing leaders’ training program with the Tianjin Municipal government, we have a high reputation with senior officials there. (This has proved particularly valuable following the fall of the former mayor.)

RMIT has built up wonderful links in China over many years. The emphasis now is to focus our efforts through what we’re calling our ‘Three Rivers’ strategy: the Pearl river in the south, the Yangtze in the middle and the Haihe river in the north. Tianjin is on the Haihe river and a sister-city for Melbourne.

Tianjin is doing very well indeed; last year economic growth there was among the very highest of any region in China. The Binhai New Area has multiple precincts – ranging from a Free Trade Area to Science & Technology parks.

The part that particularly caught our attention was the Sino Singapore Tianjin Eco-City precinct: a diverse, green and ultra-connected new development. Among other things, it’s home to one of Binhai’s suddenly flourishing clusters of incubators that are nurturing a wide array of start-ups. We came away with a plan to establish a sister-incubators framework, to parallel the sister-cities relationship.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the scale of what is taking place in the greater Tianjin area. We saw real opportunities for RMIT to make a valuable contribution to its social and economic development, in ways that could have very exciting implications for our students in Melbourne and elsewhere. This sentiment was very much reinforced in conversations we had in Beijing with the Ministry of Education and Australia’s Ambassador, Jan Adams and Minister-Counsellor for Education,  Katherine Vickers.

The following short video interview with RMIT Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean, gives a sense of the excitement he and I both felt .

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