26 September 2014 08:50

Representatives from 15 UK businesses have visited China to establish research and development links that will boost innovation and trade.

The visit forms a key stage within the novel £5.1 million Lancaster China Catalyst Programme, developed and delivered by Lancaster University, which aims to revitalise the UK's position in the global exports markets, create 240 UK jobs, help 400 domestic businesses and boost the economy by £40m.

The 15 SME companies, from across the UK, operate in a wide range of markets and are looking for Chinese partner businesses for projects as diverse as bio-tech research into pesticides, developing energy storage systems, environmental research for dairy farming and manufacturing of specialist laboratory equipment.

The businesses’ visit to Guangdong Province - China's most populated province with more than 71m residents – has been made possible through a partnership between Lancaster University and the Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology, and builds on Lancaster University’s long-established links with China.

As well as meeting with Chinese companies to discuss potential research partnerships, and visits to Chinese factories, the companies also met with the British Consulate and the British Chamber of Commerce along with representatives from UKTI and the China-Britain Business Council.

The visit led to promising talks that could lead to research partnerships being established between UK and Chinese firms.

Nick Burd, Director of the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme, said: “This programme is about forging strong links between UK and Chinese businesses to create research projects that will deliver growth through product and service development.

“This trip, where we took 15 UK businesses across to meet suitable Chinese companies, forms a key stage in the process and we were very encouraged by some very encouraging initial discussions between businesses.”

UK businesses that went to the trip included:



Brades Farm Dairy


Croft Filters





Lanhai Careers Management Ltd





The REACH Centre

Judith Friesl, marketing manager at Lancaster-based The REACH Centre, said: “The trip was a real eye-opener for us regarding the business opportunities there are for us over in China. We were impressed by the organisation of the visit and also of the quality of the potential partners we met.”

Andrew Walker of Wolverhampton-based ADAS said: “The trip was an excellent first market visit to Guangzhou, which was not only successful from the business point of view, but was also hugely enjoyable from a social perspective, with new contacts and friends made and genuine prospects of building productive long-term relationships.”

The Lancaster China Catalyst programme 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.

The programme will be recruiting a new cohort of businesses over the winter to start on the programme in the spring. Participating companies receive dedicated support worth more than £70k to plan and develop an international collaborative R&D and commercialisation project with a Chinese partner.

Participating UK SMEs benefit from access to 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.

It is expected that the programme 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 Department of Science and Technology, Lancashire County Council, Local Enterprise Partnerships and business growth hubs, Chambers of Commerce, UKTI and the China-Britain Business Council.

More information about the China Catalyst programme can be found at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/china-catalyst/