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Research Landscape in China

The world’s second-largest economy since 2010, China is projected to spend $658 billion on R&D in 2018, and is predicted to overtake the US as the world’s largest R&D investment nation by 2022. The country is home to 25% of the world’s R&D workforce, and in the past 15 years, the number of foreign-run R&D centres in China has increased from 200 to over 1,500.

In 2018, Elsevier reported that China had overtaken the US as the world’s largest producer of scientific research papers by volume, and that the country’s citation index was leading in certain disciplines including materials science, chemistry and engineering.

The proportion of international collaborative publications directly funded by China has also increased: from 31.6% during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010) to 65.2% during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015). In 2015 alone, China quadrupled its international collaboration research output to 71,000 projects (18.6% of the world total in the same year), 4.4 times more than in 2006.

UK Research and Innovation has established strong working relationships will all national research funders in China. This breadth enables a comprehensive approach to engagement, strategically matching partners and activities to achieve maximum impact.

Key Partners

Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST)

MoST takes a leading role in steering national-level science and technology development policy and is responsible for coordinating applied and frontier technology research, making it a key future partner for UK Research and Innovation. In 2017, MoST’s vice minister Wang Zhigang and Science Minister Jo Johnson signed the first UK-China Joint Strategy on Science, Technology and Innovation Collaboration, building on more than a decade of close cooperation, particularly in energy, agriculture and the digital economy.

Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)

CAS is China’s national scientific think tank and by far the country’s largest single producer of research. CAS receives a core funding allocation directly from the Ministry of Finance and augments this income by competing for research grants. There are over 100 CAS research institutes, as well as two universities and 11 supporting organisations across the country, many of which have established partnerships with UK universities and research institutes, and dozens of grants with China are with CAS and its affiliated institutes.

Ministry of Education (MoE)

There are 2,542 higher education institutions in mainland China, and the MoE regulates all aspects of the educational system, supporting research mostly through universities. It organises and guides international student exchanges, and supports the participation of higher education institutions in developing the national innovation system. Research Councils are working closely with this ministry to identify potential opportunities for developing joint PhD programmes.

National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)

NSFC is widely respected as the most transparent research funder in China. It implements a rigorous and objective peer review system to support basic and frontier research, foster talented researchers and develop international cooperation. NSFC is UK Research and Innovation’s primary funding partner in China, accounting for more than £140m in joint programmes, and our close relationship continues to strengthen through our Strategic Biennial meetings.

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)

CAAS is a national, integrative agricultural scientific research organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture.  It has responsibility for carrying out both basic and applied research, as well as research into new technologies impacting agriculture. CAAS is made up of 42 research institutes, and has strong collaborations with the UK including the Joint UK-China Centre for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture with Rothamsted Research. 

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

CASS is China’s premier academic organisation and comprehensive research centre in the fields of philosophy and social sciences. It is made up of 31 research institutes and 45 research centres, and has a focus on conducting broad international academic exchange. In 2015, the AHRC-ESRC-CASS International Centre Partnerships programme was launched to strengthen research in the social sciences and arts and humanities between the UK and China.

Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) & Peking Union Medical College (PUMC)

Founded in 1956, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) is the only state-level academic centre for medical sciences in China and multidiscipline medical research institution. Founded in 1917, Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) is the first key medical school to offer eight-year curricula on clinical medicine and undergraduate nursing courses in China. CAMS and PUMC have been leaders in modern medicine in China for over a century, and produce world-class medical research, advising the Chinese government on health care and medical education reforms.

UK Partners working with us in China 

For further information please see the following Frequently Asked Questions.