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George Osbourne recently returned to China to discuss ways in which Britain and China may work more closely together, emphasising his will for the two nations to “stick together and create a golden decade for both of our countries”. Reflecting on his first trip to China in his early twenties, the Chancellor discussed how much had changed. “I came with my back pack and stayed in the student hostel. It’s good to have seen China like that as well, because it gives me an appreciation of what they have achieved”.
This time, Osbourne embarked on a five day tour of the country, which included a stop at the Shanghai Stock Exchange. In his speeches, he highlighted the importance of the UK’s relationship with China, telling journalists his intentions to “make sure that China becomes Britain’s second largest export market. In other words, we are sending more goods to China than any other country in the world, apart from the United States.” Currently, China ranks 6th or 7th as an export market for Britain. The Chancellor was also keen to emphasise the importance of China in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, remarking “we’ve seen hundreds of millions of pounds of Chinese investment into Manchester”.
During the trip, the Chancellor discussed the importance of “a new Lancaster University service to bring together UK and Chinese universities, researchers and businesses”. Lancaster China Catalyst Programme is a research, development and innovation project which focusses on using the global reach of Lancaster University for the benefit of UK companies. Lead by Dr Nick Burd, the programme supports UK companies to develop partnerships with Chinese businesses. With initial invested by the High Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the University and Lancashire County Council, the programme has aided the establishment of partnerships between UK and Chinese firms. Ultimately, the goal of the programme is to deliver economic growth and jobs in both China and the UK.
The programme began in 2014 and will run until 2017. The project provides British businesses “with dedicated support worth over £70,000 to plan and develop an international collaborative R&D and commercialisation project with a Chinese partner”. The programme is designed to help companies research and engage with Chinese markets. This is partly achieved through a five day trip to the region, where UK companies will have the opportunity to talk to potential Chinese partners in pre-arranged one-to-one meetings. It is worth mentioning that the programme aims to revitalise the UK’s position in global export markets, create 240 jobs, help up to 400 UK businesses and boost the economy by £40m at the end of the period. The programme has been designed to “revitalise the UK’s position in global export markets”, a key component emphasised by Osbourne throughout the trip.
The companies will be supported by “graduate teams from a new Masters in International Innovation, that will provide the resources to work on these research and innovation projects”, says Dr Burd. Students will be supported by a tax free bursary of £16,000 over the course of their study. For the final 6-9 months of the course, students will actually be working in China with the companies on the projects. Helen Fogg, the Programme Director of the MSc said on the benefits of the project, “the programme is unique in that it is a real blend of academic studies, practical experience and also language and cultural skills….In terms of practical experience, the students get the opportunity to work on high impact, collaborative projects with both UK and Chinese companies”.
Apart from the Lancaster China Catalyst Programme, the University speaheads many business-focus projects, such as customised executive programmes, leadership programmes, and business growth programmes, which aims to help UK SMEs create additional revenues and new jobs. The University has worked with more than 5,000 UK’s SMEs since 1998 and obtained a high reputation within the industry – one of the only three UK universities to have gained the Small Business Charter Gold Award.