Interview: Sino-Danish science collaboration enjoys great potential, says Danish leading scientist

2013-02-15 18:26:56 GMT2013-02-16 02:26:56(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Xuan Min, Wu Bo

COPENHAGEN, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Denmark and China enjoy great potential and broad prospect in their expanding scientific and technical cooperation, which is enhancing their economies' green transition and the world's sustainable development, said Danish leading nanoscientist Flemming Besenbacher.

"I'm very honoured to be the first Dane to have received the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the People's Republic of China, and determined to promote and strengthen the Sino-Danish scientific research collaboration in my fields," Besenbacher said in a recent interview here with Xinhua. The award is the top one that China gives every year to foreign scientists who cooperate with Chinese colleagues and make great contributions to China 's development and progress.

Besenbacher, 60, director and professor at Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNano) of Aarhus University, believes that the Sino-Danish scientific and technology collaboration has yet great potential to be tapped and bright prospects to be opened, especially in green technology and sustainability areas.

"I think there are lots of possibilities and potentials in Sino-Danish collaboration. China is now using a lot of oil and coal. In Denmark we are shifting the way from using coals to wind mills and solar power. We have many fantastic Danish companies doing well in these areas. Both from the science and industry perspectives, I really see great potentials for the green technology and sustainability," he said.

He noted that the affects of global warming in six degrees Celsius would lead to be a catastrophe for the earth. China, Denmark, the U.S. and all other countries have to try to cope with this problem in a joint effort.

On Jan. 18, Besenbacher was granted the 2012 International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the People's Republic of China, at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where Chinese President Hu Jintao, Vice President Xi Jinping, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Li Keqiang attended.

"I was proud and honoured to get this award because this is recognition of what I have done with my Chinese colleagues and collaborations with China for many years. Getting the highest award is very pleasing," Besenbacher said.

Besenbacher received the award from Vice President Xi Jinping and became the first Danish getter of this prize. He has established productive cooperation with China since 1990 and made significant contributions to Sino-Danish research and graduate raising programs.

"It actually started by a professor in China sending me one of his best PhD students. That professor was Bai Chunli. Since then it has developed," Besenbacher said.

"China has a huge group of talented young people. They are very dedicated, bright and hard working. They have published many fantastic papers in Science and Nature. That is very pleasing to me to work with the young talented people and also see how they have developed. Many of my students have now travelled back to China, become the professor in the university, established the research groups and send their students out," he continued.

Besenbache has initiated many Sino-Danish joint Nanoscience research activities and is the honored professor at ten Chinese University including Tongji University and Tianjin University. He has also played a driving role in the establishment of the Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC).

In April 2010, Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education, eight Danish universities joined forces with the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (GUCAS) to establish SDC in China. SDC is expected to be fully operational in March 2013 with Nanoscience and Technology among its seven Master's programs.

"A Sino-Danish university center has now been established with seven study lines. NANO science is one of them. This class will be around 20-25 Chinese students and 20-25 Danish students. Half of the teachers will be Chinese and half of the students will be Danish. That is a further establishing between China and Denmark," he said.

Nanoscience is dealing with atoms and molecules. Many countries around the world like China and Denmark are investing heavily in Nanoscience because it is generally believed that Nanoscience will lead to a new industrial revolution.

"Most Danish children play with LEGO blocks. They put Lego blocks together and build structures. And that's exactly what we are doing in the Nanoscience. We are putting atoms and molecules together and building larger and larger structure with new properties." he explained.

He stressed that Nanoscience can be widely in our everyday life and named the chip in mobile phone and computer as a direct example of Nanoscience.

"I still remember when I bought my first mobile phone, a very big phone and it could not do a lot. Today even I am in Beijing, I can take my email, I can go to Skype I can watch TV and the reason that we can do is Nanotechnology on these small chips. "Besenbacher said.

According to Besenbacher, Nanoscience can also be used for catalyst that makes cars pollute less. It can be used to secure more sustainable energy sources like solar panels and even to make stronger steel that weighs less than the steel we use today. Moreover Nanoscientists are working on a new way to treat diseases which can minimize side effects.

Besenbacher has also made business adventures at the highest level. In 2011, he was appointed as the Chairman of Carlsberg Foundation and Supervisory Board at Carlsberg Group, the world's fourth largest brewery group.

Carlsberg was founded by J.C. Jacobsen in 1847. When he got old, he decided to donate his brewery to a foundation. He went back to the Royal Danish Academy and the foundation was established with five professors.

Carlsberg foundation was the sole owner of the company until Carlsberg became a stock listed company in 1970s. All Chairmen through the ages for Carlsberg Foundation have been selected among professors in Danish universities.

"The founder wanted people like me to be sitting on the board, because he would like to have Carlsberg run by clever people and could be a long time investor in Carlsberg. We should always do what is best for Carlsberg as a long investor," Besenbacher said.

Today Carlsberg Group has 41,000 employees, with operating revenues at 63.6 billion Danish kroner (around 11.4 billion U.S. dollars) in 2011, while Carlsberg Foundation owns around 30 percent of the group's shares.

"If you are a university professor you learn new things every day. You constantly get a new paper which you have to read and try understanding. I have to learn stuff from chemistry, biology and medicine and so on. So I think you learn how to constantly develop yourself learning new stuff. That's what I have to do in the business world also," he said, addingthat the skills of a scientist can also be used to making business well.

He emphasized China is a very important and promising emerging market for Carlsberg and Carlsberg has invested heavily in China with around 50 breweries set up there so far.

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