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Research Councils' announcements strengthen UK-China research and innovation relationship


The UK’s Research Councils are this week leading a series of announcements, events and launches in China that demonstrate the growing strength of the research and innovation relationship between the UK and China.

To demonstrate support for the continued development of UK-China collaboration in science, technology and innovation, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP and UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport led a delegation of senior figures from academia and the sciences to Shanghai. A senior RCUK delegation is attending the prestigious Pujiang Innovation Forum, including ESRC CEO and RCUK International Champion Professor Jane Elliott, who will address the Country of Honour Forum on 24 September.

RCUK-led activities include:

  • The official opening of a new joint facility between the UK’s John Innes Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences near Shanghai, the Centre of Excellence for Plant and Microbial Science (CEPAMS), which will focus on the improvement of food crops and the production of high-value, beneficial products from plants and microbes.
  • The signing of an agreement between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Open University and the Centre for Excellence in Advanced Materials in Dongguan, Guangdong to explore the development of an International Stress Engineering Centre with facilities in the UK at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire and China.
  • Focused discussions on energy and the creative economy, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) respectively, at a UK-China Innovation is GREAT Showcase on the eve on the Pujiang Forum, bringing leading UK and Chinese researchers together to explore opportunities for collaboration.
  • Research Councils support for the UK in its role as ‘Country of Honour’ at this year’s Pujiang Innovation Forum, including a presentation by RCUK International Champion and ESRC Chief Executive, Prof Jane Elliott.
  • The 11th Annual UK-China Space Workshop was also convened by STFC and CAS, bringing together top space scientists from China and the UK to build on existing successes in the fields of remote sensing and satellite technology.
  • And the MoU between STFC and the Chinese Academy of Sciences was extended for a further 5 years at the China-UK Joint Commission meeting held in Shanghai on September 23rd. This MoU complements the MoU with the National Science Foundation of China and means that STFC now has Agreements with the two major Chinese Funding Agencies.

Speaking at the opening of the CEPAMS facility Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

“Greater international collaboration is key to solving real-life tangible challenges we face around the world and this new centre is testament to our scientific partnership with China. It will bring together the brightest minds from the UK and China to improve crop production for the world’s growing populations and decrease the risks of pesticides in food production.”

Since 2007, the Research Councils office in China has now helped to support £211m of collaborative research initiatives between the UK and China and has facilitated countless collaborations and contacts between individual researchers.

The official opening of CEPAMS is a tangible example of the strong relationship in research between the UK and China. CEPAMS was established with funding from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Its researchers were key figures in a recent breakthrough that discovered cancer-fighting properties in the Chinese skullcap mushroom.

CEPAMS is the latest addition to a growing number of jointly-funded research facilities in China and the UK. BBSRC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) already successfully operate virtual joint centres for UK-China research collaboration in both countries.

Prof Elliott, RCUK International Champion commented: “UK-China joint-research centres help scientists from both countries explore new research frontiers in the spirit of transnational cooperation, with ingenuity and a commitment to excellence on both sides helping fuel exciting discoveries and build enduring institutional relationships.”

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Further information

In the UK:
Jools Granville, BBSRC 

In China:
Matt Goode, RCUK Executive Directorate
Jack Smith, Research Councils UK China

Notes to editors

  1. Research Councils UK (RCUK) 

    Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils. Their 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, they invest £3 billion in research each year, covering all disciplines and sectors, creating new knowledge through: funding research excellence; responding to society’s challenges; developing skills, leadership and infrastructure; and leading the UK’s research direction.

  2. The Pujiang Innovation Forum is China’s most influential high-level international summit focused on innovation. Jointly organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) and the Shanghai Municipal Government, it provides a platform for in-depth discussion of key strategic issues affecting domestic and international innovation policy. Key stakeholders are senior politicians and ministers, university vice chancellors, CEOs and chairpersons of top companies, researchers, innovators and economists.

    In 2012, to further China’s international partnerships in science and technology, organisers initiated the Country of Honour mechanism. This year, the United Kingdom has been named Country of Honour, following Germany, Finland, Russia and Israel in previous years.

  3. The Country of Honour Forum, held on the afternoon of 24 September, involved 300 participants. RCUK International Champion Jane Elliott addressed the session on Nurturing & Harnessing Creativity, and AHRC CEO Andrew Thompson addressed delegates attending the Culture Forum on 25 Sunday.

  4. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is a leading academic institution and comprehensive research and development centre in natural science, technological science and high-tech innovation in China. It consists of the Academic Divisions and various subordinate institutions. Membership of the Academy represents the highest level of national honour for Chinese scientists.

    To date, CAS has 13 branch offices, over 100 research institutes, and 2 universities: the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). For more information about CAS:

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