19 June 2013 12:46

Firm foundations built with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the last year have now taken a major step forward with a commitment to share joint working space.

Lancaster University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Atherton was in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in South China, recently to sign the official agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for the further collaboration.

Professor Atherton, a Professor of Entrepreneurship and an expert on China, was accompanied by Professor Steve Bradley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), who heads up international activity at Lancaster University, and Professor Kevin Jones, the Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre, who has worked in China for many years.

The whirlwind three-day visit heralded the start of a new, more intimate, relationship with the Academy with the sharing of work space at the Institute of Geochemistry.

“We signed an agreement in 2012 to mark the link between us,” explained Professor Jones. “Since then research has been carried out and we have now decided to physically share space together. This really puts some flesh on the bones.”

CAS will open up laboratory and office space to a newly appointed Lancaster University team of staff and students. A workshop is due to be held with the Academy in July to determine new joint research projects.

“A longer term strategy will emerge over time to considerably upscale our joint working,” added Professor Jones. “Both partners are very excited about the new opportunities brought about by working together.”

For CAS the strengthened partnership with Lancaster University will support a greater move into international research and access to excellent Chinese facilities for Lancaster staff and other partners. The two organisations have been working together for some time on crucial issues. They also run regular programmes of joint research workshops to address key issues.

“China wants to be known as a world-leading research country and are making huge investment in laboratories, facilities and training – they are positioning as global players,” added Professor Jones. “And we are experts in environmental sciences and ecology which they desperately need.”

For Lancaster the Chinese partnership provides a huge resource and many students.

“We are an environment centre and China experiences environmental issues with water, food security and pollution,” added Professor Jones. “Biodiversity is under threat.

“For us this provides a real challenge and opportunity to make a difference to environmental quality, using our expertise to have a positive impact and introduce more sustainable ways.”

The UK Government is very keen to see universities using their connections to create jobs for the UK.

 “We have a number of partner companies working with us in China and this is the start of a new big project that will use our expertise and connections to take companies into China to try to grow new research and business opportunities,” added Professor Jones. “We have been working with our Chinese colleagues for a long time and we have built up relationships and trust. The Chinese have a can-do attitude and real energy.”

CAS has more than 100 institutes, a university and graduate school and Lancaster enjoys a special partnership with the Academy in Environmental Science and Technology.