Senior representatives from Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) celebrated the growing UK-China research partnership and discussed strategic priorities for the future at an event held at the Royal Society in London on 18th April.
Last year marked the beginning of a ‘golden era’ of UK-China relations, with collaboration between RCUK and NSFC being an essential part of the UK’s engagement with China. This event provided an opportunity to share best practices and highlight opportunities to sustain and build upon this relationship. During the one-day meeting, delegates reviewed progress on current joint activities between the two organisations, and explored new research and investment priorities for the next two years.
Since 2009, the value of funding committed by the Research Councils and NSFC tops £130 million through 21 joint research programmes. Many of these programmes are multidisciplinary and are aimed at tackling major global research challenges including antimicrobial resistance, air pollution and urbanisation.
Professor Jane Elliott, RCUK International Champion and Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), said: “The UK Research Councils have built extremely valuable relationships with NSFC, facilitated by RCUK China based in Beijing, which have been crucial in driving research and innovation that has a positive impact for both countries. Developing this partnership further and mutually agreeing our future strategic priorities will mean that the UK and China will be able to enjoy more of the benefits that high-quality research brings, including economic growth and a better quality of life.”
Professor Liu Congqiang, NSFC Vice President, said: “Cooperation between RCUK and NSFC has been comprehensive, productive and successful in recent years. The strategic partnership of NSFC with RCUK has been firmly consolidated through the second Biennial Strategic Meeting. The partnership will continue to push forward joint research, advancing science and technology to the social and economic benefit of both countries.”
During the event, delegates had the opportunity to reflect on the impact of some of the high-quality research supported by RCUK and NSFC on solving global challenges such as climate change and urbanisation. For example, the iGive project, run by Queen’s University Belfast with Harbin Institute of Technology, has deepened development of green technology through more reliable, flexible, efficient, and environmentally friendly smart grid solutions.
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This is the second RCUK-NSFC Strategic Biennial meeting; the first was hosted by NSFC in Beijing in 2014.
RCUK China was the first overseas team set up outside of Europe by the UK Research Councils. Since 2007, the team has built excellent relationships with all the major national funding agencies in China, pioneering the facilitation of UK-China research partnerships across areas of natural, physical and medical sciences, engineering, social science, arts and the humanities. To date, RCUK China has facilitated over £160 million in co-funded programmes supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries. RCUK China currently has six members of staff and is co-located in the British Embassy in Beijing.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (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 the partnership.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils. Our collective ambition is to ensure the UK remains the best place in the world to do research, innovate and grow business. The Research Councils are central to delivering research and innovation for economic growth and societal impact. Together, we invest £3 billion in research each year, covering all disciplines and sectors, to meet tomorrow’s challenges today. Our investments create new knowledge through: funding research excellence; responding to society’s challenges; developing skills, leadership and infrastructure; and leading the UK’s research direction. We drive innovation through: creating environments and brokering partnerships; co-delivering research and innovation with over 2,500 businesses, 1,000 of which are SMEs; and providing intelligence for policy making. Find out more about our work at www.rcuk.ac.uk.
The seven UK Research Councils are: