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Innovation, education and the Chinese dream

BritCham / CBBC
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CBBC and a team of UK engineering and innovation experts have been exploring how education is driving innovation in China.
China’s quest of developing the 'Chinese dream' of sustained economic development and a prosperous society will depend on a complex chain of political, economic, social, environmental, and urban and agricultural factors. In a country as large, populous and diverse as China, managing these interdependent forces is the monumental task facing the government.
However, underpinning these variables are key pillars that, if managed well, can create a China that is strong both domestically and internationally. These pillars that will affect the future direction of China include innovation, talent and sustained economic growth. In the following we will explore how education can support these key pillars as China evolves into a new high value economy.
"We should follow the strategy of innovation as an impetus for development. Independent innovation should be the essence of this strategy.”
President Xi Jinping, 9 June 2014 
In November 2014, a CBBC market visit took three university professors with specialist expertise in innovation and engineering from the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Coventry and Glasgow Caledonian University to explore how UK and Chinese universities can co-operate to advance innovation in technology and advanced engineering. The visit involved engaging with educational institutions, businesses and government in China to understand how international cooperation in education can fuel China’s craving for innovation.
An appetite for internationalisation
Driven by the leadership, Chinese educational institutions’ appetite for international co-operation remains strong. CBBC’s Innovation and Education Workshop, held in both Beijing and Xi’an, was well attended by specialist engineering universities. These universities are well funded and boast impressive credentials yet UCLAN, Glasgow Caledonian and Coventry were able to identify areas where UK expertise could complement the development of their Chinese counterparts’ academic programmes and R&D.
Top universities such as Beihang University in Beijing and Xidian University in Xi’an demonstrated their existing strong network of global partners but they were also explicitly looking for new partnerships in niche areas that would complement their existing programmes. Increasingly, universities with strengths in niche areas have the ability to successfully create international programmes in China.
Trusted to deliver excellence
The division between academia and business is becoming ever smaller as universities and companies realise that they are mutually dependent in today’s fast-moving global economy.
Our team of innovation experts met with Airbus Research China, Rolls-Royce Engines Xi’an and the Centre for Automotive Technology Development and Research Centre who all expressed the need for real practical experience that adds direct value to the business. With business degrees and MBAs so prevalent already in China, top engineering firms are looking for a combination of business knowledge, innovative and creative minds as well as vocationally skilled graduates who can help produce more high-end products. Both Chinese and international universities are moving to create such graduates in order to serve the changing needs of business in China. In fact, companies like Airbus Research are actively engaging with Chinese and international universities to lead this change.
Rolls-Royce’s mantra ‘Trusted to Deliver Excellence’ is centred on a business culture built around quality and is fuelled by a steady intake of high-quality employees who consistently deliver excellent products. With skilled employees at a premium in China, both international and Chinese business are creating formal links with education institutions to drive innovation and ensure that they can access the brightest talents.
Sino-UK university challenge
CBBC’s workshops, whilst identifying clear opportunities for British universities, also highlighted the challenges of creating successful Sino-UK ventures. Funding, clarity on Chinese regulations in education, and creating programmes that create both academic and commercial benefits to the university all ranked highly in the list of challenges from both UK & Chinese universities.
The Henley Fund, a joint programme supported by the UK and Chinese governments with a total value of £200 million over five years, is designed to support innovation in targeted sectors. The China-Britain Business Council, with its partners UK Trade & Investment, The Science Innovation Network (SIN), the British Council and the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange, provides a full range of support for British universities to obtain the right information and relationships to build strong joint academic and commercial programmes with China.
The Sino-British dream
China’s dream of a prosperous society underpinned by sustained economic growth is dependent on innovative ideas creating new solutions in manufacturing and engineering, the environment and urbanisation to solve global challenges and create sustainable growth. This can only be achieved through international cooperation that combines strong government will, global business leaders who innovate and adopt change, and forward-thinking educational establishments that can support this change.
In fact, the Chinese dream resonates closely with a global agenda of working together to create strong academic and commercial agreements that promote both UK and Chinese organisations. Thanks to dialogue and a long term win-win approach, UK universities continue to grow in China. 
To learn more about how CBBC can help your university in China please contact simon.stewart@cbbc.org.cn at CBBC in Shanghai.
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