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Nine countries hope to tackle global challenges

By Angus Mcneice in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-14 07:09

The United Kingdom and China are among nine countries that have announced more than 100 million pounds ($121 million) in funding for projects that tackle social issues such as aging populations, climate change and infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika.

Over a four-year period, the UK will contribute 60 million pounds to 13 new projects, which will be matched by at least 45 million pounds from partners in China, Israel, the United States, India, Canada, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

The investment is the second wave of funding from the British government's Fund for International Collaboration, which is overseen by the agency UK Research and Innovation, or UKRI.

"These groundbreaking initiatives will not only help tackle major issues, including the spread of infectious diseases, they will create jobs and drive economic growth across the UK," said UK Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

In one of the projects, the UKRI and the National Natural Sciences Foundation China will commission scientists to research the biological, medical and social implications of aging populations.

Prospective candidates must submit proposals, and each successful applicant will receive between 625,000 pounds and 1 million pounds in UK funding and 2.5 million yuan ($354,000) in Chinese investment.

Aging poses a major research challenge for both the UK and China. In Britain, the birthrate hit a record low last year. Over the past two decades, the average age has risen by two years to reach 40. In China, the National Committee on Aging estimates that the proportion of the population in China aged 60 or above will rise from 17.9 percent today to 34.9 percent by 2053.

The need to provide for elderly relatives places particular strain on families in China, where the burden of caring for aging parents is most often placed upon single children and not shared among siblings.

UK-China collaboration

The UK-China collaboration will also focus on improving healthcare solutions for the elderly.

Last week, the UK Office for National Statistics confirmed that Alzheimer's disease and dementia are now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, while in China 180 million elderly people suffer from chronic diseases, according to China's National Health Commission.

The UKRI is also committing 8.3 million pounds to a joint project with the US, Israel and China that will examine infectious diseases.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China will coordinate Chinese efforts to research the interaction between humans, livestock, crops, wild animals and plants that can lead to the spread of pathogens. Diseases that cross species barriers include serious illnesses such as Zika, Ebola, African Swine Fever and Anthrax.

"The partnerships announced today underline the critical role that international collaboration will play in addressing pressing global challenges, from climate change to deadly diseases such as Ebola and Zika," said UKRI Chief Executive Mark Walport. "The Fund for International Collaboration demonstrates that the UK's research and innovation community will be at the forefront of efforts to tackle these problems, delivering benefits that will be felt here in the UK and throughout the world."

Further international collaborations to receive funding include a UK-US investigation into the relationship between ocean currents in the North Atlantic and world climate, a joint project with Canadian medical experts aimed at improving diabetes treatments, and a linkup with Japanese scientists to explore how artificial intelligence digital technologies can help societies evolve.

(China Daily Global 08/14/2019 page7)

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