By Dr Andy Kerr, Director, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, the University of Edinburgh
It is perhaps inevitable that it takes a visit to Hong Kong to learn intriguing facts about the University of Edinburgh.
In a week of striking statements, I learnt that the University has more Chinese students than attend all the Ivy League Universities put together; and more than Oxford and Cambridge Universities together.
This is fertile territory for us to be exploring potential partnerships that can help us better understand Hong Kong and China’s strategic challenges, against which we can identify who is best placed in the University – and more widely – to provide effective research insights that can deliver positive impacts.
Pressing challenges in Hong Kong include the desire for a “liveable city”: tackling issues such as wasteful energy use in buildings; traffic congestion and poor air quality from vehicle emissions; waste utilisation, given the limited space available to landfill; and water management, to cope with the increasingly extreme rainfall events.
We had a taste of tropical rainstorms during a “red weather warning” period in midweek, when 2 inches of rain (50mm+) fell in an hour.
This storm contributed to long delays for air travellers, including for our senior Vice-Principal and party. The same storm contributed to substantial flooding – and some loss of life – elsewhere in southern China.
This trip re-emphasised to me the huge opportunities for the University to apply its research insights – from many different disciplinary backgrounds – to help tackle pressing social challenges in Hong Kong and more widely in China.
The University has a huge advantage in being able to draw on our extraordinary alumni to build the partnerships necessary to translate research insights into practical action.
At the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation we work with low carbon leaders and practitioners from business, finance and the public sector. The centre focuses on large-scale low carbon projects and helps companies create new kinds of low carbon products and services.
Our packed week in Hong Kong included a conference on low carbon cities, run by the Climate Group, sponsored by ECCI and hosted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, an unusual not-for-profit organisation that provides around 10% of Hong Kong’s entire tax revenue.
We explored future partnerships with key organisations and individuals, showcased some innovative Scottish companies to Hong Kong partners, and visited our proposed new University office at the stunning Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.
It was also valuable to meet past and future students and current colleagues at the events organised by the University’s Development and Alumni team.
The final intriguing fact of the week? There is an official Chinese tartan, bringing together the red and gold of China and the blue and white of Scotland.