With Nobel Week behind us, a period during which the world’s attention is firmly on Stockholm and the year’s Nobel laureates, my own attention is now turning eastwards, towards Hong Kong. Together with Chair of the Board of Karolinska Institutet, Mikael Odenberg, I shall for the first time be visiting our overseas establishment – The Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine (MWLC).

Karolinska Institutet is engaged in many international partnerships within both research and education. In developing our next strategy (Strategy 2030), we are looking into the possible development of international hubs. International collaboration increases quality and is a prerequisite for connecting with other research and educational environments, from Scandinavia and Europe to the USA, Canada, South Africa and Uganda, and of course with the rapidly expanding scientific environments of Asia: India, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, China and Hong Kong.

A reinforcement of KI’s research

The Lau Centre is intended to be a reinforcement of KI’s research in the field of reparative medicine, as I stated in a blogpost earlier this semester. However, the matter of academic freedom is always a prioritised topic of discussion. I was very pleased when, in October, I received a letter (following up on my blogpost) from Hong Kong Chief Executive Ms Carrie Lam, assuring KI of Hong Kong’s respect for the autonomy and academic freedom of educational institutions.

During my visit to Hong Kong, I will be meeting colleagues and a number of stakeholders, with a particular focus on the science conducted at the Ming Wai Lau Centre.

I am looking forward to having the opportunity to explore the region’s scientific landscape and the activities conducted there, as well as to meeting staff members, learning about their projects and discussing the future prospects of our collaboration.

Five-day trip

The Ming Wai Lau Centre – which opened in October 2016 – has two nodes, one in Hong Kong and one in Stockholm. Also participating in the five-day trip will be deputy vice-chancellor for international affairs Maria Masucci, our international coordinator for China Katarina Drakenberg, and Marie Tell, administrative director at the Ming Wai Lau centre.

  • The programme begins on 15 December with an introduction to the MWLC in the context of Hong Kong’s international position in medical research.
  • On Saturday 16 December, I shall be joining the panel at The Hong Kong Summit of Global Health Leaders, on the theme “a new international scientificism along the Belt and Road”. The Belt and Road Initiative is described as a comprehensive infrastructure project that includes important health aspects aimed at linking 65 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. The conference is part of the 130th anniversary celebrations of the medical faculty at the University of Hong Kong.
  • On Monday 18 December, we will be visiting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who took office on 1 July this year. Ms Lam has expressed her ambition to further develop Hong Kong’s role as a centre for innovation and technology, for example by working to attract more international universities to establish themselves in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Lam will be hosting a lunch for representatives of local universities and international universities visiting Hong Kong.
  • Monday will also see KI sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Hong Kong (HKU), an organisation with which we have collaborated for many years. The day will conclude with a meeting with Ming Wai Lau, whose 2015 donation made possible the establishment of KI’s first overseas hub – indeed, the first such establishment by any Swedish university.
  • On Tuesday 19 December, we will be paying our all-important visit to MWLC itself, where I will have the opportunity to inspect the organisation, meet with staff members, learn about their work, visit the laboratories and discuss the prospects for future research. Before leaving, we will be meeting with the management of Hong Kong Science Park, where MWLC is located.
  • On Wednesday 20 December, we will be visiting the city of Shenzhen and the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the National Biobank. We will also be meeting representatives of the city to learn of their vision for future developments.

Karolinska Institutet is a leading international medical university. We need to engage in academic dialogue and collaboration on a broad scale and not least in the rapidly developing scientific environments of South East Asia. The MWLC will help us secure a solid foothold in this interesting region.

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