Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research
The Oxford Suzhou Centre of Advanced Research (OSCAR) is Oxford University’s first overseas centre for research in physical and engineering sciences. An international partnership between the University of Oxford and the Suzhou Industrial Park in Jiangsu Province in China, the aim of the centre is to promote collaboration between Oxford and existing research partnerships in China, as well as identifying new collaborations for the future.
Officially opened in October 2018, OSCAR is a multidisciplinary research centre that houses a variety of research themes in science and engineering, as well as developing the commercial potential of their research output. Projects are directed by academics in Oxford, with research undertaken by locally employed researchers in Suzhou.
Beginning from its small start-up team, OSCAR has been significantly expanded into a fully functioning institute, conducting international level research and development with a rapidly building reputation. It is hoped that proximity to Chinese industrial, academic, and technological institutes will foster a variety of collaborations that would not be possible in the UK alone. To have achieved so much in just over two years, one of which saw much of the world locked-down due to the pandemic with travel and international collaboration that much more difficult, is remarkable.
Located alongside many science, education, and innovation activities in Suzhou Industrial Park, the centre houses research led by groups from several Oxford departments including Chemistry, Engineering Science, Materials, Mathematics and Physics. Research themes cover a broad range of interdisciplinary fields, from biomedical imaging techniques and advanced materials development, to environmental technology and computational projects in finance and health.
In March 2020 the first patent application from the OSCAR collaboration was filed in China for a novel testing system for COVID-19. This important development, which is being used in the UK for testing at airports and has been commercialised through OSCAR’s first spinout company Oxsed, was recognised in 2020 with an award for Pandemic Service by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
On the Chemistry front, Professors Jeremy Robertson and Luet Wong are involved with the Environment and Biotechnology section of the collaboration, specialising in modifying enzymes to achieve alternate reaction routes that could impact the industrial production of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals.
Mark Moloney, Professor of Chemistry and Deputy Director of OSCAR, describes the project as “the culmination of a huge amount of work both in Oxford and Suzhou; it offers the prospect of an exciting and enduring international collaboration with a key role to play in the development of solutions to global healthcare, environmental and humanitarian issues. It has already and will continue to lead the way in scientific co-operation and progress at a time when this has become internationally essential”. Professor Moloney and colleagues’ work in the Surface Chemistry collaboration recently led to the creation of OSCAR’s third patent, for preparations of surface functionalized materials.
Having been fully open for two years, what is next for OSCAR? The centre’s mission is to build on its strong foundation and remarkable progress, pursuing research and technology maturation in collaboration with local academic and industrial partners. Professor Moloney looks to the future with a hope that, besides its significant reputation for research, “OSCAR will be a champion for innovation and collaboration, seeking mutual beneficial outcomes with an open and friendly international cooperation model”.
Visit the OSCAR website