The first overseas office of the Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK) opens in October


31 August 2007

Hepeng Jia/ Beijing, China 

UK research outpost

Chinese-British scientific partnership is rising

The first overseas office of the Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK) is expected to link dynamic Chinese researchers into UK-funded research projects. 

’China is such a big performer in the world of science that it is crucial to sustain an active UK-China research relationship,’ office director Chris Godwin told Chemistry World. ’Already the UK is China’s third-biggest partner in co-authored scientific papers.’ 

Equally representing the seven research councils - which span medical research, biotechnology, physical sciences, and so on - the office will be opened in Beijing in October.  

’The UK research councils are working to remove barriers that prevent researchers from collaborating,’ said Godwin. ’This office will play a major role in that strategy.’ 

Initially, the focus will be on collaborations between institutions, but ’eventually we aim to directly link good Chinese research projects into the pool of UK funding. The UK research councils control budgets of ?2.8 billion (US$5.6 billion) a year,’ Godwin said. 

The office will explore various ways to match the UK and Chinese contributions to research projects. ’Equally matched financial contributions are not realistic when the cost structures in the UK and China are so different,’ Godwin pointed out. ’For example, it is possible that the Chinese partners might input their time in the joint project while the UK research council grant pays for the necessary travels of both the Chinese and UK researchers.’ 

Carol Rennie, deputy director of the RCUK’s Beijing office, said that UK research funding can already pay for researchers of any nationality to work anywhere in the world where this is necessary to the research project. 

For chemical science researchers, the greater presence of the RCUK in China is definitely good news.  

Although there will no preferential funding to any particular academic discipline, the activities of Chinese researchers across a wide range of the chemical sciences could help them win many funding opportunities.  

Godwin believes the research councils will not simply transplant their working models from the UK to China. ’Rather, we will try to develop ways that are culturally, academically and institutionally acceptable to the Chinese partners,’ he said.  

The Beijing office will play a big part in cultivating a deeper understanding of Chinese researchers’ needs, he explained.  

Godwin says that RCUK does not plan to spend a fixed sum of money in China, but he is hoping to see a big increase in the number of collaborative projects. 

His office has an annual budget of ?500,000 to organise workshops and events to bridge the Chinese and UK science communities.