Soapbox

UC Davis, South American partnership can produce a research bounty

UC Davis plant geneticist Eduardo Blumwald checks on a research project with Luisa Bascunan of the Chilean-based Center of Advanced Studies in Arid Zones in 2013. UC Davis is expanding its research partnership in Chile.
UC Davis plant geneticist Eduardo Blumwald checks on a research project with Luisa Bascunan of the Chilean-based Center of Advanced Studies in Arid Zones in 2013. UC Davis is expanding its research partnership in Chile. Sacramento Bee file

Why would UC Davis recently enter into a partnership with a government agency in Chile to establish a new life sciences center in that South American nation when there is so much to do right here at home?

The answer is straightforward: In our increasingly interconnected world, smart, strategic partnerships such as this can dramatically increase our ability to have a positive impact around the world, but also in California.

UC Davis and Chile have a long-standing collaboration on agriculture dating to the 1960s. This partnership is credited with developing grapes and stone fruits into a major industry in Chile that provides year-round fresh fruit to Californians.

Because of the extraordinary similarity between the two regions, research carried out in one region will produce scientific breakthroughs in both. California farmers and consumers will continue to benefit because we can do more research in Chile and do it more rapidly through more frequent trials.

Roughly half of the research undertaken by the new UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center will occur in California, with UC Davis and Chilean university faculty and students traveling regularly in both directions.

It is also important to note that due to Chile’s growing prosperity, it will pay for more than half of the research. Thus, the exceptional quality of our science is leading to research funding from abroad, to the benefit of our faculty, students and California stakeholders.

Research will include genomic technologies to improve crops, molecular detection of pests and pathogens, and the prediction and mitigation of climate change. The innovation center will develop and help to commercialize new technologies that are of benefit to both regions, and will also help California firms introduce their technology and expand sales of products in Chile.

Since they are in opposite hemispheres, the two production areas are complementary, supplying each other with fresh fruit during the other’s offseason. Historically, total U.S. consumption of fresh fruit from California has risen when fruit imports from Chile have increased, making quality fresh fruit available year-round.

Even before we announced the new innovation center, the UC Davis-Chile partnership was strong, with more than 60 Chilean graduate students and postdoctoral researchers working at UC Davis. We have structured the center as a series of partnerships between UC Davis and Chilean universities and companies. But it is actually a collaboration between UC Davis and the country of Chile, including strategic relationships in research, education and innovation with national and regional governments, universities and industry.

The center is one example of a broader initiative to globalize UC Davis. Others include the UC Davis World Food Center and a Food Safety Center under development in China.

Our campus is embracing and strengthening its global outreach because making the world a better place is simply the right thing to do and because having an active global perspective is an essential educational dimension for a modern university committed to educating diverse students eager to take their place in the world economy.

Linda Katehi is chancellor of the University of California, Davis. Alan Bennett is a professor of plant sciences at UC Davis and founding executive director of the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center.

  Comments