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U-Michigan, China enter two new automated and connected vehicle partnerships

The University of Michigan is entering two separate agreements with Chinese institutions targeting automated and connected vehicles. Together with a third new agreement focused on clean water, the three agreements add up to more than $54 million to advance research in these key areas.

First, a $27-million research agreement with Shenzhen-based investment firm Frontt Capital Management will advance autonomous, connected vehicles and robotic technologies. This agreement puts in place measures that U-M and Frontt agreed to in a memorandum of understanding signed last month in China. It establishes a Joint Research Center for Intelligent Vehicles at U-M. It contributes toward construction of the recently approved Robotics Laboratory and a vehicle garage on U-M’s North Campus near Mcity, the simulated urban-suburban environment for testing connected and automated vehicles.

It also provides support for U-M researchers to advise Frontt on design of a unique autonomous vehicle test facility in Shenzhen. The facility will simulate the country’s unique transportation environment.

Second, a $2.5-million research agreement with the Chongqing Sokon Industry Group establishes the University of Michigan-Sokon Research Center in the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering. Sokon will provide funding for the center, which will advance research on connected and automated vehicles through the work of 13 faculty members, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students at both institutions.

The Chongqing Sokon Industry Group is a public company that makes and distributes autos and auto parts. It is located in Chongqing in Southwest China. The new center will be led by Huei Peng, the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center. Sokon is also establishing an independent tech center in the state of Michigan.

Clean water technology. A memorandum of understanding with the Beijing Institute for Collaborative Innovation and the Southern University of Science and Technology aims to establish a Global Collaboratory in Water Technology. Funding for the $25-million, five-year partnership would be provided by the Beijing Institute, an innovation-focused organization founded by 14 Chinese universities. The Collaboratory is slated to have three sites: Ann Arbor, Beijing and Shenzhen. The funding is expected to be divided among those locations.

At U-M, the effort will be led by Lutgarde Raskin, the Altarum/ERIM Russell O’Neal Professor of Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering. The Collaboratory's goal is to identify technology gaps in water treatment and monitoring and develop solutions to provide clean and safe water to the world’s urban environments. Leaders at the institutions expect to sign a full research agreement in 2017.

These three agreements are in addition to a memorandum of understanding on a $25 million Global Collaboratory in Advanced Manufacturing that U-M entered into in October with Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation and the Southern University of Science and Technology. The institutions aim to formalize the Global Collaboratory early next year.

Also in October, the U-M/Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute approved a program to develop the next generation of leaders for the automotive industry. The two-week Executive Development Program (EDP) launches 28 April 2017 at the Shanghai Auto Show. EDP is designed to equip tomorrow’s C-suite executives in future of the global auto industry. Developed in partnership between Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Joint Institute, the EDP will include sessions in Shanghai, Ann Arbor and Palo Alto.


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