New partnerships in science and innovation between Sheffield and China

  • President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Keith Burnett is visiting China this week with scholars from the University’s Faculty of Science
  • The University will sign a President to President agreement with Jilin University in the North of China
  • University delegation will also visit Xiamen University in the South
  • The visit will include exploratory meetings on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in collaboration with China’s leading Tsinghua University and a visit to the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, as well as media interviews promoting Sheffield’s reputation for applied innovation in China

Professor Sir Kieth Burnett and President Professor Li Yuanyuan

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, is visiting China this week with scholars from the University’s Faculty of Science.

The visit builds on existing research collaboration in crucial areas such- as anti-microbial resistance - a major health challenge in hospitals around the world. The University will sign a formal partnership agreement with Jilin University in the North of China and will explore further scientific collaborations and partnerships with Xiamen University in the South.

Leading the delegation for the Faculty of Science are, Professor Simon Jones who will deliver a research seminar to the faculty and students of the College of Chemistry and Professor Simon Foster, an eminent international researcher in anti-microbial resistance who already has research staff from the partner institutions in his research laboratory group.The partnerships will involve collaboration in a number of areas including student and staff exchange and research.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: "I feel very honoured to visit Jilin University because we believe this kind of collaboration with China will be an important part of our future. We greatly admire the work being done here to address the common challenges being faced by our countries and the world. My colleagues have seen powerful scholarship taking place here and we are particularly excited about areas such as artificial intelligence, aerospace and the diseases of ageing.

“I am also delighted about cooperation in exciting areas such as quantum computing and communications. For all these reasons, it is inspiring to consider how we will develop our partnership and make this vision a reality."

The visit reflects the University of Sheffield’s increasing reputation in China and the week-long visit is part of the University’s strategy as a leading global research-intensive institution. The University of Sheffield was recently ranked in the top 50 most international universities globally by the Times Higher Education Global Rankings.

As part of the week-long visit, the Vice-Chancellor will also be holding meetings at China’s top-rated Tsinghua University in Beijing, where the university is developing partnerships in artificial intelligence and applications in manufacturing, ahead of hosting a return visit to Sheffield in April.

I feel very honoured to visit Jilin University because we believe this kind of collaboration with China will be an important part of our future.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield

Jilin and Sheffield will also sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the exchange of law students and the faculty are currently considering opportunities for deepening exchange in culture and education for the benefit of communities in the UK and China.

President Professor Li Yuanyuan from Jilin University said: "I warmly invite Sheffield scholars, lecturers and students to visit Jilin University to carry out research and study here, to deepen our academic ties but also enhance the development of both our peoples. I am grateful to Sir Keith Burnett for the work he has done to build the friendship and understanding between the UK and China, and I see this as a strong basis for a significant academic partnership between our two universities who have so much in common.

"Building on our common work through the Confucius Institutes, we have a clear shared commitment to building understanding and exchange which I hope will lead to us creating joint laboratories and research. I am confident that the increased funding we are receiving from the Chinese government will support the development of truly important programmes together."

Sir Keith, who is a Chinese speaker, has also been invited to visit the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing, where he will address an invited audience on Industry 4.0 – and what this means for the UK and China.

The speech will draw on the experience of the University of Sheffield’s research with industry on advanced manufacturing and AI led by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre as well as its new Mindsphere facility with Siemens, based at the University’s world class teaching facility, the Diamond. The University’s AMRC is a formal partner of the Chinese space programme, working on high-performance materials for the Chinese space station.

In Beijing, the Vice-Chancellor gave interviews to China Central TV and China Education TV, as well as the leading Xinhua News. A collection of essays by Sir Keith on partnerships in science and innovation - The Road to Collaboration: the UK and China - was recently published in English and Chinese by Xinhua publishing.

The importance of partnerships

China Education TV

After speaking to China Education TV about partnerships between the University and leading Chinese universities, Sir Keith said: "We know Chinese universities are rapidly increasing their research quality and global rankings. Our approach is to think about what we can bring to this new Chinese empire of productivity and trade across the Belt and Road - not only competing but partnering to address shared challenges and benefit both of our peoples.

"The rising of Chinese universities is not only competition but opportunity - western universities need to understand these developments and to transform fear of change into seeking ways of doing powerful good together.

"We should honour what China is doing, be inspired at what has been achieved, and look at the chances to collaborate on the very most exciting areas, whether those be AI, aerospace, health or new materials. For Chinese students and families, our aim is to continue to give them the education and opportunities which they need, and to keep on working with our government to improve the policies and visas which properly welcome them."

MOU signing

Additional Information

The University of Sheffield

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A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

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