19 February 2014 11:56

Lancaster University and the most highly populated and prosperous province in China have signed up to an agreement that will enhance business links, boost exports and create jobs.

A delegation of top officials from Lancaster University, along with the leader of Lancashire County Council, has flown out to China this week to meet with the Guangdong Provincial Office of Science and Technology in the city of Guangzhou.

The two parties have signed a five-year memorandum of understanding. The agreement outlines aims by both parties to increase the level of partnerships between UK and Chinese technology small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) through collaborative research projects leading to the development and commercialisation of new products and services for global markets.

The partnership, which exploits Lancaster University’s excellence in research, was first announced by the UK Minister of State for Universities & Science, David Willetts, while visiting China with Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2013.

Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, said: “Lancaster has long-established links with China and we are strongly positioned to help develop greater relationships between businesses in both countries that will deliver mutual economic benefits.

“This agreement will enable UK SMEs to exploit our long-lasting links and research excellence, giving greater potential for export growth and job creation.”

Lancaster University and Guangdong Provincial Office of Science and Technology are currently working together on two specific collaborative research programmes - the International Research and Innovation Centre for the Environment (IRICE), and the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme.

The £5.1 million Lancaster China Catalyst Programme - created by Lancaster University and part-funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Catalyst Fund, the University and Lancashire County Council - 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.

Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We want to help Lancashire businesses to gain new opportunities. This new agreement, which has just been signed, is an important way for us to make connections between our two countries and encourage new investment into Lancashire.

“Universities are an important key to producing to the next wave of entrepreneurs and business leaders. We're pleased to be working closely with the team from Lancaster, one of this country's leading universities, to share knowledge and open up new business opportunities that will directly benefit Lancashire.”

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.

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 Lancaster’s faculties of Science and Technology, Arts and Social Sciences and the Management School.

Guangdong province is located in south east China. It has a population of more than 71 million residents and has a GDP comparable to the Netherlands.

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 and it was ranked in the top ten of UK universities for SME-engagement by the recent ‘Encouraging a British Invention Revolution’ report by Sir Andrew Witty.

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, Technology Strategy Board and the China-Britain Business Council.