The West Midlands’ relationship with China is set to receive a further boost following the landmark signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Coventry University and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).
The collaboration makes Coventry University the primary academic partner of SAIC in the UK, and will see the two organisations work together on a range of advanced engineering research and development projects.
In particular, the projects will focus on technology development and professional training, taking advantage of the University’s engineering and managerial expertise.
The announcement of the new strategic partnership comes days after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, during a visit to the SAIC-owned MG plant in Birmingham, spoke of ‘brighter prospects’ in the relationship between China and the region.
Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of China to the UK, highlighted the business and education sectors as being areas where ‘productive cooperation’ between the two nations could strengthen Sino-UK relations further.
Coventry University and SAIC already collaborate on a number of existing projects, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, simulation work to help develop hybrid and electric vehicle technologies, and a biomechanical analysis project to explore the impact of car design on muscle strain.
The partnership will also allow the two organisations to capitalise on funding opportunities – such as the collaborative R&D grants offered by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board – to initiate new and innovative research programmes.
As part of the collaboration, students at Coventry University will also have the opportunity to work on projects with SAIC, and key members of SAIC’s advanced engineering team will deliver guest lectures to undergraduates.
Professor Madeleine Atkins, vice-chancellor of Coventry University, said, “This new collaboration represents an exciting development in the relationship between Coventry University and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation at a time when relations between the UK and China are going from strength to strength.
“We are delighted to help build on those links, and we look forward to passing on the benefits of such a strong industrial partnership to our students.”
Tim Bailey, head of R&D at the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre (SMTC), said, “The strategic partnership with Coventry University brings a positive new dimension to SAIC Motor’s technical operations in the UK, reflecting China’s increasing engagement with British expertise, particularly in the West Midlands.
“At a time when new and emerging technologies are changing the shape of the automotive industry, working with a leading research and development institution such as Coventry University will help give SMTC an edge in the global marketplace.
“In return we believe that SMTC can offer tremendous new opportunities to Coventry University and its students.”
Last year a team of MA Automotive Design students from the University took part in an intensive ten week project at the SAIC Motor UK Technical Centre (SMTC) at Longbridge, Birmingham, to develop and propose an MG concept car for the year 2020.
The project was overseen by SAIC’s global design director, Tony Williams-Kenny, who graduated from Coventry University in 1998 with an MA in Automotive Design and a BA (Hons) in Transport Design.