The Lancaster China Catalyst Programme aims to revitalise the UK’s position in the global exports markets, create 240 jobs, help 400 domestic businesses and boost the economy by £40m.

The £5.1 million Lancaster China Catalyst Programme - created by Lancaster University and part-funded by the Higher Education Funding Council’s Catalyst Fund, the University and Lancashire County Council - will help small and medium sized UK firms compete in increasingly competitive global markets by helping them to become established in the world’s fastest growing economy – China.

The project aims to support the development of a significant number of partnerships between UK and Chinese companies, which focus on the research, development and commercialisation of new products and services for major export markets.

The scheme will do this by helping SMEs gain access to contacts and business networks within China’s Guangdong Province – China’s most populated province with more than 71m residents – by partnering with the Guangdong Provincial Office of Science and Technology. It will help UK firms cut through red tape and provide guidance on doing business in the Far East.

Participating UK SMEs will benefit from access to up to 100 Lancaster University graduates drawn from science, technology, engineering, design and management disciplines to support research, development and commercialisation of new products and services for export.

This graduate support programme will help to produce a new generation of employees with the skills to help the UK become more competitive globally in the future.

Firms will also receive support to improve their leadership and management skills for internationalisation through accessing Lancaster’s expertise in the development and delivery of creative leadership programmes and long-standing experience of working in China. The project involves very experienced staff from our faculties of Science and Technology, Arts and Social Sciences and the Management School.

Trevor McMillan, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at Lancaster University, said: “Lancaster University was the first UK academic institution to establish links in China following the Cultural Revolution and our long established links with, and understanding of, China places us in a unique position to help UK businesses to exploit export opportunities in the world’s fastest growing economy.

“Lancaster University has a great track record of working with SMEs and we believe this initiative, which takes great advantage of our accumulated experience and expertise in areas such as research and leadership training, will enable us to significantly assist participating businesses to maximise their export potential.

“It also provides fantastic opportunities for our graduates to gain highly valuable experience and skills as they enter the workforce.”

The project will involve up to 400 SMEs in a range of sectors including environmental technology, digital and creative, high-value manufacturing, novel materials, ICT, low carbon and transport sectors.

It is hoped that in the future the project will expand beyond Guangdong due to Lancaster University’s established partnerships with the South China University of Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It is expected that the project will generate £40 million for the economy, following an investment of just over £5.1m. This includes £3.582m from HEFCE, £720K from SMEs, £500k from Lancashire County Council and £320k from Lancaster University.

Lancaster University has a nationally-leading reputation for working with UK SMEs. Since 1998, the university has worked with more than 5,000 SMEs to help provide economic growth.

Partners in the project are the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Guangdong Provincial Government, Lancashire County Council, Local Enterprise Partnerships and business growth hubs, Chambers of Commerce, UKTI and the China-British Business Council.