China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy and in 2014 it surpassed the USA in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity (IMF). As for research and development, China’s expenditure has increased at an annual growth rate of 21.6% over the past 20 years with total investment reaching £133 billion in 2014. China has a large and rapidly growing research base with 25% of the world’s R&D workforce and an expanding tier of Chinese multinationals having become visible in global rankings. At current growth rates, China is forecast to become the world’s largest spender on R&D in 2022.
The UK and China are established research partners. In 2011 the UK overtook Japan to become China’s second-largest partner in terms of co-publications. Collaboration has produced significant impact gains to both countries: 12% of cited UK-China papers are cited four times above the world average, compared with 8% for UK-only and 7% for China-only papers.
As the world’s second largest publisher of research with ambitious plans, China is a clear partner of choice for the UK and the UK Research Councils.
RCUK China has built excellent relationships with all the major national funding agencies in China, pioneering the facilitation of UK-China research partnerships.
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)
CAAS is a national, integrative agricultural scientific research organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture. It has responsibility for carrying out both basic and applied research, as well as research into new technologies impacting agriculture. CAAS is made up of 42 research institutes, and has strong collaborations with the UK including a partnership with Rothamsted Research. There are also several joint agricultural research programmes and a strategic partnership in discussion with the Research Councils.
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
CAS is the national scientific think tank of China and research-performing organisation. CAS receives a core funding allocation directly from the Ministry of Finance and augments this income by competing for research grants. There are over 100 CAS research institutes, 2 universities and 11 supporting organisations across the country, many of which have established partnerships with UK universities and research institutes. In 2014, CAS and the John Innes Centre established a new Centre of Excellence for Plant and Microbial Science to enhance research that contributes to the agricultural technology and microbial genetics agendas of both countries. To date, RCUK has funded two joint research programmes in collaboration with CAS including the cross-council programme on Synthetic Biology, (BBSRC & EPSRC).
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
CASS is China’s premier academic organisation and comprehensive research centre in the fields of philosophy and social sciences. It is made up of 31 research institutes and 45 research centres, and has a focus on conducting broad international academic exchange. In 2015, the AHRC-ESRC-CASS International Centre Partnerships programme was launched to strengthen research in the social sciences and arts and humanities between the UK and China.
Ministry of Education (MoE)
There are 2,542 higher education institutions in mainland China. MoE regulates all aspects of the educational system, supporting research mostly through universities. It organises and guides international student exchanges, and supports the participation of higher education institutions in developing the national innovation system. Research Councils are working closely with this ministry to identify potential opportunities for developing joint PhD programmes.
Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST).
MoST takes a leading role in drawing up science and technology development plans and policies. It also has the responsibility of coordinating research including applied and frontier technology research. In 2008-2009, the initial UK-China Energy research programmes were launched in collaboration with MoST. This partnership has grown to support four Science Bridges projects on: Sustainable Energy and Built Environment; 4G Wireless Mobile Communications; Water Availability & Quality and Pharmaceutical Sciences & Medical Technology.
RCUK will continue to work with MoST to set strategic priorities, with a focus on the commercialisation and translation of research.
National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)
NSFC is widely respected as the most transparent research funder in China, it implements a rigorous and objective peer review system to support basic and frontier research, foster talented researchers and develop international cooperation. NSFC is RCUK’s primary funding partner. RCUK’s relationship with NSFC has developed significantly since the China office was set up. RCUK and NSFC signed a joint agreement in December 2013 to establish Biennial Strategic Meetings to optimise resources and explore more effective mechanisms for bilateral cooperation. This is the first of its kind for both the Research Councils and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), and has been a vital step in solidifying a partnership that has funded over £108 million in joint programmes.