The University of Alberta campus in Edmonton, on Aug. 26, 2016.

CODIE MCLACHLAN/The Globe and Mail

The University of Alberta is finishing up intensive scientific collaboration with China that entails sharing and transferring analysis in strategically essential areas reminiscent of nanotechnology, biotechnology and synthetic intelligence.

In some instances, professors and researchers at the college have arrange corporations in joint ventures with Chinese corporations and state establishments to commercialize Canadian-developed expertise.

The University of Alberta declined to debate its analysis actions with China aside from to say that “we have received no directives related to China” from the federal authorities to cease its engagement with Chinese establishments.

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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and U.S. intelligence companies have warned that Chinese corporations and teachers are being compelled to share work they’ve carried out with Western researchers with China’s army, safety and industrial equipment.

Canadian-linked foundation offers travel to China in exchange for research from academics, scientists

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a former senior official at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, mentioned the University of Alberta has been at the forefront amongst Canadian universities constructing ties with Chinese counterparts.

“They’ve been the lead in Canada on partnering with China – there’s no question about it,” mentioned Ms. McCuaig-Johnston, who wrote a paper for the U of A’s China Institute warning about the pitfalls of getting concerned in joint ventures with Chinese corporations or academic establishments.

“All of these professors feel they are doing the right thing by engaging with China and helping China build their capacity, but they have to look very carefully at each deal to see ‘Are we being taken to the cleaners’ and what is the longer-term plan for the technology,’ ” Ms. McCuaig-Johnston mentioned.

U.S. senators are in search of to enhance oversight of grants and contracts to universities from abroad as a part of a bipartisan bundle of laws to spice up American competitiveness with China in science and expertise.

In March, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne introduced Ottawa could be asking universities and granting councils to develop new danger pointers to combine nationwide safety concerns into the analysis and funding of analysis tasks. The pointers would ship a sign to Canadian college researchers who typically depend on overseas cash to fund their work, however wouldn’t ban them from doing so.

The University of Alberta has solid shut ties with China. Since 2005, under an settlement with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, U of A researchers have gained entry to no less than 50 state labs in China, whereas upwards of 60 professors have acquired grants for greater than 90 joint tasks with state and nationwide Chinese labs.

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Back in 2018, the college accepted a serious donation from Hong Kong-based billionaire Jonathan Koon-Shum Choi, a high-ranking member of the political advisory physique to the Chinese Communist Party that has dominated China for 70 years. In the previous yr, Mr. Choi has emerged as an enthusiastic supporter of Beijing’s harsh crackdown on Hong Kong.

The University of Alberta, nonetheless, refused to reveal the measurement of Mr. Choi’s reward, and didn’t reply to questions on whether or not it might return the cash given his robust help for the Hong Kong clampdown.

Dr. Shrawan Kumar, professor emeritus of rehabilitation drugs at the U of A, mentioned he has lengthy been involved about scientific co-operation with China.

“China approaches individual researchers and lures them with money and travel and hospitality and all that and they fall for it,” he mentioned. “The Chinese policy by hook and by crook is to get the proprietary information.”

Stephanie Carvin, a former nationwide safety analyst and assistant professor of worldwide relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, mentioned Canadian universities should rethink analysis preparations with state-owned and state-championed corporations primarily based in authoritarian states, significantly when there’s a danger that the expertise could also be used in human-rights abuses.

“For years, we have been telling universities to go out and get this money and not really paying attention to it. And now we realize there is this huge problem and we have to slam on the brakes. But we’ve already driven off the cliff.”

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In 2019, the U of A signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate with HKAI lab in Hong Kong, an incubator for synthetic intelligence. HKAI is funded by Alibaba and SenseTime, a Beijing-based AI firm that was blacklisted by the U.S. authorities for its surveillance function in the repression of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The college declined to reply questions on this collaboration. The House of Commons unanimously declared in February that China is conducting genocide in opposition to its Muslim minorities.

The net web page for an entity known as the Canadian Centre for BioInnovation in Shandong, China, with connections to the U of A, says the group is to “carry out transnational technology transfer” and appeal to Canadian expertise and tasks. Its advisory board contains the University of Alberta’s affiliate vice-president of innovation and commercialization, Deborah James, based on Lorne Babiuk, a former vice-president of analysis at the college. He is the honorary president of the Yantai YEDA International Incubator for Biomedical Innovation Centre, the place the Canadian centre is positioned.

Three U of A professors and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta have arrange a industrial spinoff, Tricca Technologies, that seeks to construct and promote handheld biosensors. The college itself has an 8.74-per-cent stake in the firm, based on Alberta’s company registry. In 2018 Tricca entered right into a three way partnership with the Yantai YEDA International Incubator for Biomedical Innovation, which company disclosure statements say was based by the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Rongchang Pharmaceuticals and native Chinese authorities.

Tricca has a 40-per-cent share of the three way partnership. The Chinese companion, Yantai YEDA International Incubator for Biomedical Innovation, has a 60-per-cent stake.

Tricca chief govt Scott MacKay, who alongside with three U of A professors represents the crew that runs the agency, mentioned the funding their Chinese companion brings will assist commercialize, manufacture and market their merchandise. Some analysis and growth will happen in China and the Chinese companion may even carry expertise to the enterprise.

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“We recognize that there are always risks when sharing R&D results and intellectual property with other companies,” he mentioned. “While we recognize there are risks with any business partnership, these types of relationships are built on trust. We’re working with individuals in China who have long established relationships with Canada.”

However, Ms. McCuaig-Johnston mentioned Canadians ought to suppose twice earlier than establishing new analysis ventures with Chinese companions.

“This is classic: where 60 per cent is owned by China and 40 per cent is owned by the Canadian company,” she mentioned of Tricca’s three way partnership.

She warned of the pitfalls of joint ventures with Chinese companions in a report final yr for the University of Alberta’s China Institute. Her analysis discovered dozens of Canadian companies that had been pressed into unequal partnerships and infrequently discovered their Chinese companion making an attempt to take over the three way partnership.

Ms. McCuaig-Johnston mentioned the three way partnership has been China’s most well-liked association for Western expertise companies working in China and it comes from the nation’s “Indigenous Innovation Policy,” which seeks to combine Western expertise into Chinese merchandise with a aim of decreasing China’s dependence on Western expertise to beneath 30 per cent of the Chinese market by 2025.

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