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Fourth China-UK Innovation and Development Forum in Oxford, UK

New and emerging technologies are connecting and redefining how people, economies and the wider society interact. While these technologies are profoundly transforming our everyday lives, they also pose unique challenges such as exclusion of marginalised segments of our society. How emerging technologies can be harnessed to liberate and benefit every human without leaving anyone behind remains a global development agenda.

The Fourth China-UK Innovation and Development Forum

On Monday the 11th of November 2019, the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD) at the University of Oxford convened the 4th iteration of the China – UK Forum on Innovation and Development to deliberate on some of these big questions facing the world today. This year’s forum, themed ‘Emerging technologies and the future of economy and society’, was organised in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institutes of Science and Development, the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Association of British Chinese Professors, the China-Britain Business Council, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

The discussions at the Forum mainly centred on development of emerging technologies and the future of economy and society, and the key challenges these emerging technologies pose for sustainable and inclusive development. The forum kicked off with welcome remarks delivered by the TMCD Director, Prof. Xiaolan Fu, who shared some reflections on how the emergence of new technologies brings huge benefits, but also challenges to the world as they redefine how business and wider society operate. These issues were further highlighted by Prof. Diego Sanchez – Anacochea, Head of Oxford’s Department of International Development (ODID), in his opening statement.  Prof. Sanchez – Anacochea emphasised the priority which ODID and TMCD place on innovation, and the critical research which TMCD has led in this area to understand the interface between technology and development and what it means for the UK and China. He emphasised that China’s innovation and development experience has become a reference point for the rest of the developing world, and China’s challenges could serve as lessons for promoting innovation based on a more inclusive approach in other countries.

Prof.Xiaolan Fu
Prof. Diego Sanchez-Anacochea
Prof. Diego Sanchez-Anacochea

A sense of strong complementarity between Chinese and British interests on how to drive inclusive innovation emerged out of the discussions. Prof. John Loughhead of the UK Research Institute reiterated that the challenges posed by emerging technologies to society and economy cannot always be foreseen nor predicted, but fine similarities exist between the challenges faced by the UK and China. “The UK and China as natural partners in research and innovation, given their complementary strengths and common goals, can face challenges together”, said Prof. Loughhead. According to Prof. Jiaofeng Pan (President, President of Institutes of Science and Development-CAS), the challenges faced across countries are similar and there is an urgent need to reinforce cooperation to meet these challenges. In the same vein, Grace Lang of the UK Research Institute, revealed that China is the UK’s third biggest partner for collaborative research, UK-China collaboration to support innovation and develop technology will be a key way to mutually benefit. Prof. Fuquan Sun of CASTED reveals that China requires more Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for inclusive and sustainable development. Several speakers also underscored the need for both countries to collaborate to tackle global challenges such as climate change which requires more funding for basic research in green technologies and innovative solutions.

Prof.John Loughhead
Prof.John Loughhead
Prof. Jiaofeng Pan
Prof. Jiaofeng Pan
Ms.Grace Lang
Ms.Grace Lang
Prof.Fuquan Sun
Prof.Fuquan Sun

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Prof. Louise Richardson, closed the Forum by emphasising the value of the forum to ponder on daunting global issues related to ‘Emerging technologies and the future of economy and society’. Prof. Richardson emphasised the relevance and timely nature of the Forum given the myriad of challenges the world faces today and likely to face ahead.

Prof. Louise Richardson
Prof. Louise Richardson

A high point of the Forum was the launch of the UK-China Research Network comprising of 20 of the most prestigious research institutions. The objective of the UK-China Research Network is to promote joint research and enhance cooperation between the two nations. Regrouping key actors in the UK and China, the network will weigh on critical decisions as the UK prepares for its post-Brexit transition, and China drafts its 2030 long term development plan.

The Launch of the UK-China Research Network