6 December 2013 12:45

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has announced a formal agreement involving Lancaster University that will boost business links between the UK and China.


Mr Willetts, who is on a visit to China along with the Prime Minister, announced, among a series of UK-China deals, this week that Lancaster University will be signing a memorandum of understanding with Guangdong Provincial Office of Science and Technology as part of a five-year partnership.

Although not a legally-binding document, the MoU outlines aims by both parties to increase the level of partnerships between UK and Chinese technological companies through collaborative research projects leading to the development and commercialisation of new products and services for global markets.

Mr Willetts said: “In China, and around the globe, the market for education is growing rapidly. We are determined that our world-class universities should build on the UK’s position as the education partner of choice for China.

“These new partnerships are good for education and good for growth. They will ensure China and the UK have well-educated and trained young people, equipped to meet the opportunities and challenges of a globalised world.”

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.

Andrew Atherton, Deputy Vice Chancellor, from Lancaster University said: “It is fantastic that Lancaster University’s work to establish greater links between businesses in the UK and China has received ministerial approval.

“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.”

Guangdong is located in south east China and is the most populated region in the country with more than 71 million residents. It is also China’s most prosperous with a GDP similar to the Netherlands.

Lancashire County Council has part-funded the recently-launched Lancaster China Catalyst Programme, which aims to develop collaborative research projects between UK and Chinese companies to create programmes of innovation in small businesses to develop new products and services for export.

Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "Guangdong has a larger population than the UK, which makes this an exciting announcement. To create a strong economy in Lancashire, it's important to bring new investment and open up new opportunities, especially in global markets.

"We're delighted to be supporting a project that will encourage innovation and provide benefits to businesses in the county."

The Lancaster China Catalyst 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 expected that the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme will create 240 jobs within UK SMEs and 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.

IRICE, which was established in 2012, creates opportunities for UK business growth specifically in relation to environmental technologies across soil, air and water resources protection.