Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's joint school of sustainable development in Xian will contribute to energy and environmental policies on the mainland, the university's provost says.
"We'll do studies, research and propose alternative policies for the government to consider," said Professor Wei Shyy, executive vice-president and provost of the university. "We want to have a role in contributing to policy development and thinking."
The Clear Water Bay university's joint venture with Xian Jiaotong University is in the northwestern city of Xian, which Shyy described as "the future of China".
He said resources such as coal, gas and certain important industrial salts, were highly concentrated in the region.
In terms of development, the region was not "as advanced as the eastern coastal area".
"So basically there are a lot of opportunities to do sustainable development in northwestern China," said Shyy, who is overseeing the establishment of the school.
"When they extract the natural resources from the ground they can also pay attention to the balance and the impact on the environment."
This echoes one of three motivations stated by Xian Jiaotong University for setting up the school: "To serve the western China development strategy while following the model of sustainable development of energy and chemical engineering."
"The mainland is developing fast," Shyy said. "Whatever happens there matters to the rest of the world. We need to help mainland China to grow in a way that is organised and sustainable."
The two universities agreed to establish the joint venture in August 2012. Subject to final approval from the mainland's ministry of education, the school will open in September.
Three departments - sustainable materials, sustainable energy and sustainable systems - will form part of the school.
"We'd like to see HKUST grow and broaden our mission so we can not only carry out fundamental research but contribute our research to policy matters," Shyy said.
A special committee led by HKUST is responsible for the selection process to choose the dean and department heads for the joint school.
"We sent out a lot of invitations based on recommendations and nominations globally," Shyy said, adding that the dean's appointment was expected to be announced in about a month's time.
Shyy said the school's unique focus on sustainable development would help it stand out from other joint ventures on the mainland, such as the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), which offers courses in materials science and energy science.