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Sino-UK network to confront tech challenges

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-14 01:31

Academics in China and the United Kingdom have formed a new network that will help inform government policy on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and gene editing.

The Sino-UK Innovation Strategy and Policy Research Network will be led by Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Tsinghua University in China has joined the initiative, as have departments and professors from Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria, Edinburgh, and Birmingham universities in the UK.

The network aims to contribute evidence-based research that will help address potential challenges brought on by emerging technology.

"Collaboration is good for higher quality research, and in this case it is about research on policy, to support evidence-based policy making," network co-founder Fu Xiaolan told China Daily.

Fu, who is the director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development at Oxford University, said the network will aim to support technological development in Africa and Southeast Asia.

She said that the network will also provide evidence-based research for policymakers faced with emerging and transformative technologies that carry inherent risk, including "artificial intelligence, gene editing and industrial robotics".

"This research network will provide hard evidence to support policy making at the country level, and at the level of the firm," Fu said. "And the implications of this research will go beyond China and the UK."

Network co-founder Pan Jiaofeng, who is president of the Institutes of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that more than 20 universities and institutions have shown interest in joining the network.

Pan said that the UK is "one of China's most important scientific partners".

"We hope that this research network will deepen collaboration between China and the UK," Pan said. "I believe we will generate more sparks of thought and produce more fruitful results so that policy makers, scholars, and business leaders of our two countries will benefit from them."

The network was announced this week from the 4th Oxford Sino-UK Innovation Forum, which is an annual meeting among academics, politicians, and business leaders from both countries.

At the forum, John Loughhead, who is the chief scientific advisor for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlighted the work both countries have done since signing the UK-China Joint Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation in 2017. This includes investment in renewable energy resources, research into hydrogen fuel, and other measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"We have several hundred projects already underway," said Loughhead. "We have challenges, and we have a shared vision of the potential impact of future technologies and the way that we deploy them. We hope that through the continual development of science we will have a better understanding of where we can best address our efforts."

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