Lancaster Environment Centre partnerships in China have underpinned a major new initiative designed to bring together business in the UK and China. 

The £5.1 million Lancaster China Catalyst Programme will extend opportunities for collaborative research and development that leverage the global reach of Lancaster University for the benefit of UK business.

The programme has grown out of a long term relationship developed between the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which now run the International Research and Innovation Centre for the Environment (I-RICE) together.

A delegation from Lancaster University flew to China recently to sign a five year Memorandum of Understanding with the  Department of Science and Technology, Guangdong Province (GDST), China’s largest and richest province. It was led by Professor Mark E Smith, Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University, and Councillor Jenny Mein, the leader of Lancaster City Council, which is jointly funding the programme alongside the university and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Partners formally agreed to support research and development, enhance business links and boost international trade and business growth.

Matching innovative UK and Chinese SMEs

“This ambitious project is all about connecting the UKs top research-intensive small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) with complementary business partners in Guangdong Province and co-designing high impact projects with the support of world-leading research organisations in both countries,” said Dr Ruth Alcock, Head of LEC’s Enterprise and Business Partnerships team, who was part of the delegation.

“Our partners in China will identify promising companies to match with UK SMEs,” said Dr Hong Li, LEC’s International Partnerships Manager.  “The environment is one of the hottest topics in China, people are really concerned because the air pollution in many major cities has gradually caught the attention of both the public and leadership.

“Guandong Province is really looking to develop their eco-technology sector rather than relying on mass production.  UK SMEs have some novel technologies in different sectors of the environment so they fit very well with this.”

For UK companies, the programme provides opportunities to develop in the Chinese market and to work directly with Chinese businesses, and top academic institutions in both countries.  They will also have access to long-term support and resources to enable them to develop their leadership, innovation and collaborative capacity geared to the challenges of international collaboration and trade.

New International Innovation masters

The supported projects will have a science and technology core focus with valuable support from management and design disciplines. They will be delivered via a new, 2 year Lancaster University Masters in ‘International Innovation’ in which graduates can ‘major’ in Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering, Management or Design and have a unique opportunity to work with businesses in both the UK and Guangdong Province, China in multi-disciplinary teams on specific business-led research projects in Guangdong province.

“I spent a couple of days talking to businesses about potential projects while I was in China,” said Dr Alcock.  “These are the early adopters who can really see the benefits of the programme.”

Professor Kevin Jones, LEC Director has been collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences for more than decade and this specific relationship underpins the wider Lancaster China Catalyst Programme. 

For more details on the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme please contact Dr Ruth Alcock via