Top Chinese official tours photonics labs

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Wang Zhigang and Allan Rock and other delegates in a photonics lab

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock and China's Vice-Minister of Science and Technology, Wang Zhigang, listen to postdoctoral fellow Zhengyan Li as they tour the photonics labs at the Advanced Research Complex. Photo: Bonnie Findley.

By Mike Foster

Intellectual cooperation with China in the field of photonics is driving exciting new research in clean technology, advanced manufacturing and health sciences, says University of Ottawa President Allan Rock.

The president spoke at an event to welcome China’s Vice-Minister of Science and Technology, Wang Zhigang, for a visit and tour of the University’s Advanced Research Complex (ARC). Vice-Minister Wang Zhigang is the highest-ranking official from China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to visit Canada since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1970.

President Rock described the ARC as the heart of photonics research in Canada, a facility that has created a unique environment where researchers in fields ranging from environmental science to quantum physics learn from one another, and where theoretical and practical applications evolve together.

“As a world-leading research centre, we are extremely proud of the meaningful partnerships we have nurtured with Chinese scientists, research institutes and investors,” said Rock. “In our increasingly interconnected world, we understand first-hand the benefits of international cooperation and knowledge exchange."

Vice-Minister Wang Zhigang said the major purpose of his visit to uOttawa was to see the progress of research taking place at the ARC photonics labs. He was in Ottawa to attend the Canada-China Joint Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation, where the two countries signed a Joint Declaration on Clean Technology Cooperation.

He added that the issues discussed during that meeting, namely how to apply pure science research to technology, were quite similar to the presentations that he heard from uOttawa photonics researchers.

“I fully agree…that the twenty-first century is the century of photonics, where the research and technological applications in this area will have a very promising future, in terms of basic research and commercialization,” said Vice-Minister Wang Zhigang.

“From your presentations, I have learned that the University of Ottawa is very strong in terms of photonics research,” he said.

“If any of your research outcomes are ready to be commercialized, or if China has any demands in these areas, then the Ministry is very willing to provide support and facilitation,” he said.

Steve Perry, Dean of the Faculty of Science, said that the University attracts more than $300M in research funding every year. It has forged partnerships with 20 Chinese Academy of Science institutes. In the past two years alone, uOttawa has launched three joint research centres with China in the fields of chemistry, biology and medicine, and from 2012 to 2014, the number of joint publications between Chinese and uOttawa researchers increased by 35%.

Photonics, the science of light, is one of several areas in which the University has formed partnerships with industry, said Sylvain Charbonneau, uOttawa’s Associate Vice-President, Research.

He described how, over the past decade, the photonics group has attracted more than $200M in venture capital. This has led to 87 inventions, 23 patents, 5 licensed technologies and 8 new start-ups in information and communication technology, energy and security.

Xiaoyi Bao, Canada Research Chair in fibre optics and photonics, and Trevor Hall, Canada Research Chair in photonic network technology, are among the uOttawa professors and researchers who have received funding from Chinese investors.

Xiaoyi Bao also presented her work on fibre optic sensors to Vice-Minister Wang Zhigang and the delegation before they toured two state-of-the-art ARC labs and listened to short talks. Paul Corkum, National Research Council-Canada Research Chair in Attosecond Photonics, talked about attosecond science and Jianping Yao, professor and University Research Chair in microwave photonics, described the use of fully reconfigurable integrated photonics processors for ultra-fast signal processing and 5G wireless communications.

Pierre Berini, director of the uOttawa Centre for Research in Photonics and University Research Chair in surface plasmon photonics, described the use of plasmonic biosensors for disease detection.

Wang Zhigang and Allan Rock stand in front of an oil painting of a snowy street.

President Allan Rock presents a painting of a winter scene to China’s Vice-Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang. Photo: Peter Thornton.

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