The University of Haifa and East China Normal University (ECNU), the largest university in Shanghai, have announced plans to build a laboratory building on the ECNU campus for the joint Shanghai-Haifa Research Center. This is the first institution of its kind in which Israeli and Chinese researchers are working together.

The agreement to establish the Shanghai-Haifa Research Center was signed 10 months ago but, at the time, the center was expected to be located in a room in the Global Education Park at ECNU’s international campus. The cooperative academic venture has now announced that the center will be housed in a new laboratory building.

“The establishment of the joint building is a massive step forward in the academic cooperation, and evidence of the great importance ECNU attaches to cooperation with the University of Haifa. We are joining a very exclusive list of leading world universities, such as Cornell and NYU, that have reached this level of cooperation with ECNU,” said University of Haifa President Amos Shapira.

The new center will serve as a joint base for researchers, as well as for training doctorate students from both ECNU and the University of Haifa. For Israeli researchers this means they will be allowed to compete, together with their Chinese colleagues, for research grants from Chinese research foundations. It is estimated that the Chinese government invested some $40 billion in academic research funds in 2013 alone.

The new building will be funded entirely by the Chinese: the initial sum of $3 million has been provided by the Chinese government and the promoter who will construct the building. It will include laboratories in four research fields: ecology, big data, biomedicine, and neurobiology.

The formal signing ceremony for the Israeli-Chinese agreement took place on April 5, 2016 in Haifa.

“The research cooperation agreement with ECNU is a sign of the academic strength of the University of Haifa, and this laboratory building will significantly upgrade our joint research. We began our relationship with visits by delegations, we began our agreement with a small office, and the fact that the Chinese government has now seen fit to provide initial funding for the establishment of the joint building shows that the sky’s the limit for this cooperation,” said University of Haifa Rector Prof. David Faraggi.

ECNU has already established similar research centers to the one just opened with the University of Haifa with Cornell, the University of California, the University of Manchester, the University of London (King’s College), the Paris-based Ecole normale supérieure, the University of Tokyo, and other institutions.