A Sino-New Zealand Coastal Innovation Partnership is a step closer to fruition thanks to links forged during a visit to Tauranga's sister city of Yantai in China.
The delegation that helped celebrate the 30th anniversary of the relationship included Chris Battershill of the University of Waikato's coastal marine field station in Tauranga.
Mayor Stuart Crosby's report to the council on Monday said a key outcome of the visit was to advance an agreement between the university and the Yantai Institute of Coastal Research to establish a Sino-New Zealand Coastal Innovation Partnership.
The partnership has a mutual interest in research and commercial opportunities in marine biotechnology and aquaculture.
"A specific area of interest is in algal aquaculture for agrichemicals," Mr Crosby said.
The institutions will collaborate in a workshop to be held in Tauranga in December to fast-track work on seaweed aquaculture. It would supply Australia, New Zealand and China producers of high grade fertilisers, cattle feed and other high value products.
Mr Crosby said the aim of the workshop was to establish a formal business partnership by the end of this year. Four Chinese companies have indicated they will attend, with Tauranga's economic development agency Priority One working with Waikato University to identify New Zealand companies that might be interested.
Another breakthrough was agreement to hold the 2nd International Conference for Coastal Biotechnology in Tauranga next May.
Mr Crosby said the conference could attract up to 500 marine scientists, with Tourism Bay of Plenty assisting with organising the event.
Academic linkages were also being explored between Yantai University and Waikato University, with initial interest from 50 Chinese Master of Science students to come to Tauranga. A proposed Tauranga-based new University of Waikato degree, a Bachelor of Applied Science, would attract Chinese students and provide pathways for Bay secondary and polytechnic students. The meeting featured seven pupils from Tauranga Intermediate School talking about their experiences during their visit to Yantai when they were billeted by families of children from the Yantai Number 2 Middle School.
They enjoyed the challenges of a different culture and were amazed at the long hours put in by Yantai students. Their school day began at 7.15am and finished at 5.30pm, after which students regularly stayed up until 11pm to complete homework.
Mayoral delegation to South Korea and China:
* April 4 and 5: Visited the Korean city of Ansan.
* April 6 to 9: Visited Chinese sister city of Yantai.
* April 10 and 11: Visited Shanghai and Suzhou industrial park