On Sunday 5 October, CLDs hosted a joint fringe event on "China Science: Threat or Opportunity for UK companies" with the Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists (ALDES). It involved an expert panel, chaired by CLD Vice-Chair Merlene Emerson, discussing how researchers in the UK could better build productive collaborations with Chinese partners.
Although Tom Saunders, from Nesta was unable to attend at the last minute, Dr Ed Long of ALDES ably stepped in to present a summary of their report "China's Absorptive State", with slides showing their key policy recommendations, This included drafting a five-year plan for research collaboration and convening a bilateral expert group to support ministers in both governments.
Our second speaker was patent attorney Graham McGlashan from Marks & Clerk. He explained that intellectual property protection in China was much more robust than was often assumed by western firms and flagged up some key areas of innovation (including fuel cells and solar power) where there was likely to be a large increase in Chinese patents in the coming few years.
Also on the panel was Professor Tariq Durrani from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, who outlined new investments in science and innovation partnerships through the £75m Newton Fund. He suggested that the UK would benefit from supporting a larger number of British students to participate in exchange programmes or overseas study in China.
To give a different perspective from the Chinese side was Dr Cong Cao of the University of Nottingham. He described how Chinese state procurement was becoming increasingly open to overseas providers, but cautioned that British and Chinese governments should aim to foster bottom-up initiatives in collaboration rather than directing them centrally.
Our thanks go to all our speakers and to ALDES for organising this stimulating debate on such a very topical and important area for the future of R&D in British industry. We are also grateful to Singtao Press for sending a reporter to Glasgow specially to cover this event.