Shanghai Expo presence generates new partnerships for UK university

Posted on: 1/6/2016 3
Shanghai Expo presence generates new partnerships for UK university

It was a gamble to commit to being the only UK university with its own six-month presence at 2016's World Expo in Shanghai, China, but The University of Nottingham's Shanghai Expo venture is paying dividends.

New business and research partnerships are now emerging from the 17 expert-led conferences and workshops attended by more than 1,000 key stakeholders, as well as the many meetings that took place during the Expo. Hundreds of thousands of visitors explored — through words, pictures and video — The University of Nottingham’s world-changing research in sustainability as part of its collaborative exhibition with award-winning sustainable architects ZEDfactory based on the theme ‘Zero Carbon, Zero Waste’.

For six months, from May until the end of October this year, 73 million visitors flocked to Expo 2016. This was the largest ever Expo and the first in a developing country. The 5.3 sq km site was dubbed a ‘global village’, with 192 nations and 50 international organisations exhibiting on the theme ‘Better City, Better Life’. The University addressed this theme across many subject areas, and top researchers from its campuses in the UK and Asia — as well as leading academic colleagues from other institutions worldwide — participated in thought-provoking workshops and conferences spanning Nottingham’s extensive research in sustainability.

The University’s Expo lead, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Rudd, said: “Expo 2016 provided a compelling platform to showcase our portfolio of work in sustainability conveying our message to a genuinely global audience. Being at Shanghai Expo reminded us all that resource management, population health and climate change are problems that respect no national boundaries.

“Every new visitor to our ZEDpavilion exhibition left with a clear sense of these messages,” he said, “but they were also alive to the knowledge that some of the world’s most creative and dedicated scientists are improving lives, driving economic growth and helping our cities to eat, drink and breathe.” 

The University’s key objectives in exhibiting at Shanghai Expo 2016 were to promote its strategic global approach to higher education — its campuses in China and Malaysia and international research collaborations with Chinese universities and businesses.

The longer term aim is to attract new funding streams for research and knowledge transfer, and improve alumni engagement and student recruitment in China and the region.

For Shanghai Expo, The University of Nottingham partnered with the East Midlands China Business Bureau at East Midlands Economics Online (EMEO) to attract Chinese investment to the region. In the summer, EMEO announced that the Chinese car manufacturer, Chang’an Automobile Co, will establish its UK Research and Development facility at No 1 Nottingham Science Park, creating up to 200 new jobs. During the course of the Expo, the University received over 400 serious business enquiries.

All events at the Expo were run in conjunction with a partner institution bringing together key academics and business contacts and creating opportunities for joint research, investigating new funding streams for research, as well as providing opportunities for further and future events and conferences.

David Wallace, EMEO’s International and Innovation Director, said: “I am delighted EMEO was able to support the University of Nottingham in their work at the Shanghai Expo this year. Our East Midlands China Business Bureau has been working closely with the University over the years on a number of projects which have resulted in exciting new collaborations between businesses in the East Midlands and China.

“As a result of the University’s activity at the Expo, a number of excellent new contacts have been made, and we look forward to working with them to establish more partnerships which help to create new opportunities for businesses in the East Midlands."

The University of Nottingham’s series of Expo events was launched in May by former Deputy Prime Minister the Right Honourable John Prescott (now Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull), with a conference on China’s Sustainable Development.

The six-month programme, attended by government officials, academics, and students, included diverse research-inspired subjects ranging across the arts, sciences and humanities. July’s Drug Discovery conference led to several prominent pharmaceutical companies beginning to develop with the University a pharmaceutical R&D centre in Shanghai.

The Global Food Security event strengthened relationships with multinational food producers, enabling visits to their R&D bases in Shanghai, and plans are underway to establish a waste-reducing postharvest technology ‘centre of excellence’ with existing partners. One Green Manufacturing workshop launched the Sino-UK Low Carbon Manufacturing Consortium – a unique multi-disciplinary research and educational partnership between international academics, industry and government bodies in the UK and China.

Another initiated joint research into fuel cells with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Ningbo Institute of Material Technology & Engineering (NIMTE). Extended research collaborations in eight fields include creating fuel from biomass and novel composite materials and processes. The Eco-urbanism event led to joint research on ‘conservation development policy’ with Tianjin University.

Experts from Nottingham’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment were invited to be sustainable design advisers by Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute for a consultancy project on Nankai new campus, and advanced discussions are taking place with other Chinese universities on collaborative ventures. At the end of August, Nottingham City Council took representatives from 20 East Midlands businesses to visit Shanghai.

The event on Sustainable Energy and Construction initiated many new Sino/UK collaborations. October’s event on Carbon Capture and Storage launched a major new UK research facility – the National Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage – and was catalyst for a strengthening of relations with both the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.

The health effects of mass urbanization and vast social change in China were addressed at a symposium on Mental Health and its Role in Sustainable Industrialised Societies. This symposium and associated visits in China by Institute of Mental Health (IMH) researchers, built on established collaborations with the Shanghai Mental Health Centre. More collaborations are now planned, and a new epidemiological survey of mental health in China is also planned to trial a new technique for identifying risk in mental health patients.

Moving Images and the Digital Eco-City, run in conjunction with the British Film Institute (BFI), premiered rare archive film of Shanghai and China (dating back to 1901). This event will inform a major international showcase of Chinese cinema planned by the BFI in London for 2012, and in January 2016 a University of Nottingham / Tsinghua University / RCUK China funded conference on 3D film and TV take place in Beijing.

As a result of our Expo collaboration, the BFI have offered the use of London’s 3D IMAX cinema for a potential high-profile follow-up event in the UK in 2016 or 2012. A new Chinese PhD student has also been recruited after an interview at the event, and other queries were received from potential students at MA level.

Finally, Sustainable Agriculture – the role of plant reproduction brought together key academics, industry, and government agencies from the UK and China to discuss advances in the area of plant reproduction and how these developments fit into a strategy for global sustainable agriculture. Links were strengthened with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and new links created with other leading Chinese research institutes. All events took place in The Auditorium at London ZEDpavilion.

The building is a cost-effective example of urban best practice, designed and built by leading architects, low carbon product designers and masterplanners ZEDfactory, founded by Bill Dunster OBE, who was lead architect for the first phases of Nottingham’s RIBA Sustainability Award-winning Jubilee Campus. The ZEDfactory’s plan was chosen after winning an international design competition in this category.

Bill Dunster, ZEDfactory founder and managing director, said: “Shanghai Expo has been an incredible journey for the ZEDfactory. To be in China at this stage in its urban development gave rise to many challenges. We are privileged that our Pavilion will remain a permanent legacy for the city of Shanghai. We are grateful to our sponsors and for the dedication and expertise of The University of Nottingham, without whom we could not have achieved such a positive and engaging six months.”

In this Expo year there have been two significant additional developments for The University of Nottingham: First, the Shanghai government honoured this University with an invitation to establish a sister campus in their city to complement our flourishing community at Ningbo. Second, global pharmaceutical giant GSK GlaxoSmithKline, taking several cues from the Expo’s message, will establish a major new centre for green chemistry and drug discovery with a climate neutral laboratory at our Jubilee Campus in Nottingham.

The Expo presence may also have had a beneficial effect on applications from China to the University of Nottingham’s UK campuses. These have increased 20 per cent from 2015 to 2016. From the Shanghai region the numbers have risen considerably from 257 in 2015 to 463 in 2016. While the Expo will not be the only factor in this rise, it certainly indicates the Expo has had a positive effect.

Shanghai Expo 2016 provided The University of Nottingham with a unique chance to benchmark our research progress tackling critical issues provoked by climate change, how these affect ordinary citizens and the challenges and opportunities facing the sustainable cities of tomorrow.


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