China and UK leaders explore collaboration opportunities

11 December 2013

Leaders from universities and businesses in China and the UK explore opportunities to collaborate and innovate 

Twenty six leaders from Chinese Universities met with counterparts from British universities and with senior figures from businesses and government, to discuss ways of working together to exploit innovative ideas.

The forum, entitled ‘Collaborative Innovations’ was organised by The University of Nottingham on behalf of the British Council’s UK-China Higher Education Forum, and with the support of Universities UK’s International Unit.

Higher education is ranked as the UK’s sixth largest export, and China spends £102 billion each year on research and development, second only to USA, offering huge opportunities for UK universities and innovative businesses.

The UK recently overtook Japan as China’s largest research collaborator and according to the Research Council UK (RCUK), there are currently over £47 million of jointly funded UK-China research programmes.

The UK-China Higher Education forum, which took place at BioCity Nottingham, represented an opportunity for leaders from the UK and Chinese higher education sectors to meet with businesses to explore ways in which they can work together to exchange knowledge and develop new technologies. The break-out sessions enabled conclusions to be drawn on how the UK and China should innovate together.

The Ministerial Counsellor for the Chinese Embassy, Mr Chen Futao, welcomed the delegates and provided an insight into UK-China collaborations in innovation.

Professor Zongyi Zhang from The South Western University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, and Professor Xinmin Zhang from The University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, discussed some of the issues facing Chinese universities that want to work with businesses and suggested ways in which collaborations could be developed in future.

From the UK, Professor Laurie Cuthbert, Dean for China Operations at Queen Mary University in London, and Jason Feehily, Head of The Asia Business Centre at The University of Nottingham, provided some specific examples of the ways in which they are working with Chinese universities and businesses.

Professor Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice Chancellor for External Engagement at the University of Nottingham was one of the keynote speakers at the event, he said: “We are very proud to be able to host the UK-China Higher Education Forum. Here at The University of Nottingham, we have established a number of very successful partnerships with Chinese businesses, government and universities over the last decade. 

“These collaborations are proving to be mutually beneficial, as they are enabling our academics to explore new possibilities for their research, working with industry to find commercial applications which are of benefit to the wider society and economy in both the UK and China”

Other presenters during the day included, Tom Saunders, Research Analyst at Nesta, who presented his findings on the Chinese innovation system and the report he published, entitled ‘China’s absorptive state’. Tom explained that the ‘absorptiveness’ of the Chinese system means that there has been a shift towards an enterprise–led innovation system. 

Susan Milner, Director of Education for the British Council, China, concluded the day by stating the vitally important role that universities have to play in delivering the ‘third mission’ to engage with industry, and she also emphasised that real synergies could be achieved by UK and Chinese universities working closely together to share knowledge and expertise.