Cross-National Collaboration Highlights the Importance of Logistics Management and Innovation

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by Edward Chang
The Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, the world’s busiest port in terms of cargo tonnage, is the ideal location for MIT’s new research center, the first of its kind in China. Image: 又见铃兰/Wikimedia commons.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has partnered with the Chinese government to create a new global supply and logistics research center in Ningbo, China. The Ningbo Supply Chain Innovation Institute China (NSIIC) will provide research and innovation opportunities for postgraduate students, modeled off MIT’s own course offerings in its Center for Transportation & Logistics. Administered under Chinese law, the institute will open in 2016, with the inaugural class graduating in the fall of 2017. NSIIC will be the sixth research center run by MIT as part of its Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence Network (SCALE), a research and education program for graduates, executives and partners which opened its first center in 2003 and has international branches in Colombia, Spain, and Malaysia.

NSIIC also holds strategic importance for the Ningbo Government due to its vicinity to the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan on the East China Sea coast. The Ningbo port eclipsed The Port of Shanghai as the largest port in the world by cargo tonnage in 2012, processing an estimated 744 million metric tons of goods.  However, broader economic factors shaping China have resulted in a nation-wide 15 month decline in export shipments, down by 18.8%. This has been further complicated by the logistics industry’s relative infancy and issues with customs and delivery timeliness and logistics quality. As such, the move to establish the NSIIC is in line with the national government’s emphasis on enhancing logistics infrastructure to maintain dominance amidst the increasing competitiveness of other East Asian nations such as Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

Other nations such as Singapore, which ranked no. 1 logistics hub in the 2012 Logistics Performance Index, have also embraced the importance of student education and research in informing its supply and logistics sector. For instance, The Logistics Institute - Asia Pacific, formed by the Singaporean government, brought together the Georgia Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore to facilitate development of international logistics expertise. More recently in 2015, leading logistics firm DHL established the Asia Pacific Innovation Centre (APIC) in Singapore, demonstrating its dedication to the growing importance of the Asia Pacific region to the global supply chain. American institutions are increasingly establishing satellite campuses or cooperative programs in Asia across disciplines from law to fashion, demonstrating the importance of the region on the global stage.    

Edward Chang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.