Lucrative tech deal to slash Beijing subway energy use

Decades of research from Victoria University’s Robinson Research Institute has been validated by a new multi-million-dollar deal with Chinese investors.

The deal between Robinson and Milestone Science and Technology Ltd, based near Shanghai, will see the formation of three new companies.

Robinson’s ground-breaking technology has the potential to cut the heavy energy use of Beijing’s subway system by 40 percent.

As well as the subway technology, portable compact magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems will be built to improve medical services in remote areas of China.

Robinson Research Institute director Bob Buckley says the deal validates the hard work by people who have been developing this technology for more than 20 years.

“It’s a real reward for the team so it’s really exciting. It’s a validation of the effort that has gone in over the years.”

The institute has been working in China for the last 3 years, trying to build relationships and undertaking projects with a range of organisations. This joint venture came about relatively quickly and the partnership was started about a year ago.

Buckley says it will give the institute the opportunity to make the commercial breakthroughs it needs.

“We’ve been working in this area for about 20 years and one of the issues is getting market access for the sort of technology we’ve developed. What they’re doing is giving us the capital and market access we need.

“Markets in China are really attractive from our point of view.”

Two of the new companies will be based in the Jiangsu Zhongguancun Science and Technology Industrial Park as part of a superconductivity innovation centre. The third will sit alongside Robinson in the Gracefield Innovation Quarter, Lower Hutt.

Milestone will contract research and development from Robinson and other parts of Victoria University and will develop and manufacture high temperature superconducting [HTS] technology products using componets sourced from other New Zealand companies.

Initially the technology will be used for energy-saving in Beijing’s subway systems, but other subway systems in China have also expressed interest in the technology.

Research contracted from Robinson and Victoria University will be marketed by the companies in China.

Milestone chairman Mi Wang says he was drawn to Robinson because of its ability to develop market-ready technology.

“It is one of the few places with the experience to design and build the high-speed HTS rotors needed for the subway flywheels my company is developing.”

Victoria University vice-provost (research) Kate McGrath says the partnership is a reflection of Robinson’s world-leading research.

“The investment by the company is further proof of the calibre of research and development happening at Robinson, and the potential this research has to make a substantial impact through stimulating economic opportunities in New Zealand and addressing energy needs and improving health and wellbeing globally.”