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A Lively Environment for a Party

XIAMEN, CHINA—The drinks were flowing freely and firecrackers were popping off as Chinese and U.K. scientists celebrated the opening of a new Sino-U.K. center on environmental science and technology. The endeavor is a joint effort of the Institute of Urban Environment in Xiamen and the University of Aberdeen in the U.K., to speed technology transfer to China and spur the development of homegrown environmental technologies.

The new center has a golden opportunity to make a mark: Last week, the Chinese government announced a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus package largely targeted at infrastructure projects that, IUE and Aberdeen researchers hope, will incorporate environmental technologies from the get-go. The grand opening ceremony took place outdoors on a clear, blustery day in this southeastern coastal city, as workers were landscaping and outfitting buildings on the 2-year-old institute's bayside campus. After IUE director Zhao Jingzhu and Ken Killham, research director of Aberdeen's Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, finished their benedictory remarks, the ceremony ended with a bang, Chinese style, by a deafening fusillade of firecrackers.

The center's goals include the development of advanced water treatment techniques such as photoelectric catalysis. "There are tremendous opportunities in this area here in China," says Kilham. "We want our scientists to take an entrepreneurial approach," he says. "They need to be thinking beyond the lab." Demonstrating their prowess at doing just that last night, the researchers rang in the new center with a sumptuous banquet with Chinese liquor and Scotch whisky quaffed from silver Scottish drinking cups called quaichs. By the end of the evening, researchers from both countries were hugging each other and belting out Scottish ballads together.