For something that started out purely out of serendipity, as the Institute of Pharmaceutical Innovation (IPI) Director Paul Thorning explains, the China Science Bridges Project has developed from a small organisation taking its first tentative steps into China, to what is now a leading Open Innovation Programme supporting knowledge transfer, product development and the integration of trade, industry and academia on a national scale between the UK and China.
The project has developed formal working collaborations with China, and established such a presence that it has now grown out of regional UKTI support and is working with top levels of government to establish an official programme with China. Paul remains resolute, without “the vital role UKTI played in kick-starting the whole process” significant progress and achievements just would not have been possible.
Passport to Export
To explain how this project got to where it is today requires some backtracking 7-8 years to when UKTI first got involved. The story is then one of sheer determination and commitment of both the IPI and UKTI to succeed in China and build up what has become an incredibly successful programme for the University of Bradford, which has now come full circle to offer a platform of support for new SMEs to develop and collaborate with China.
Initially the IPI had funding to sell academic solutions to the international pharmaceutical industry as a Centre for Industrial Collaboration (CIC). These solutions included Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve product design. However they found that overall, the international market was just not ready for the solutions being offered. Dr Qun Shao, originally himself from China, who had been engaged to write AI code for commercial products at the time, suggested that the team explore the potential opportunities for other services from the IPI in China. At first, International Trade Advisor Alistair Gardner explained UKTI did what it could to support the team by putting them in contact with the right people in China, and as soon as possible thereafter, Qun then enrolled on the Passport to Export Programme. From this point on, the team started to focus on developing their networks in China.
“What UKTI support was able to do for us was de-risk going into China. Qun was able to use the Passport to Export Programme to really develop his commercial skills and UKTI also funded air fares. Through UKTI we received tremendous support from the Embassy in Beijing and in particular from the Science and Innovation team at the Foreign Office” Paul Thorning, Director, IPI, Bradford University.
Company: Institute of Pharmaceutical Innovation
Target Market: China
You get the sense a true partnership has been formed between the IPI and UKTI looking back over the years, and understanding from both sides of what can potentially be achieved has been a significant factor in the growth, development and ultimate success of the University in the China Science Bridges Project. Passport to Export was invaluable in supporting their initial enthusiasm for the China opportunity in 2006 and for developing Dr Qun Shao’s commercial expertise to successfully lead the China Project and take on the role of China Programme Manager.
“We were very exposed, at risk, with no funds to go into China or a track record in terms of commercial returns from China and so this support from UKTI, and our conviction of the China opportunity, was invaluable” Paul Thorning, Director, IPI, Bradford University.
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