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[BEIJING] The Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK) has opened its first non-European overseas office in Beijing, China.

"[The opening of the office] will enable China and UK scientists to share knowledge, set up research infrastructure to explore key studies and partners in areas for future studies," said John Denham, the United Kingdom's (UK's) secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills at the office's opening ceremony in Beijing today (30 October).

The office represents the seven UK research councils, including the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.

According to Carol Rennie, deputy director of the RCUK's Beijing office, the office will not act as a funding agency, rather facilitating more flexible, jointly-funded research collaborations between China and UK.

An example is the UK£6 million (US$12 million) research grant from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, which will be used to fund joint UK–China research on renewable energies, starting next month (November).

The opening of the RCUK office will also benefit Chinese researchers working in development-related sciences, said Rennie. RCUK will help to distribute a growing pool of funds from the UK's Department for International Development, which has a mission of using science to help the poor, Rennie told SciDev.Net.

The RCUK already has some development-based research programmes in place, such as exploring ways for Chinese farmers to be economically sustainable while also protecting the environment.

"I believe there will be more and more such programmes to benefit the Chinese poor, Rennie said, adding that her office can help bring funding opportunities to grassroot Chinese scientists.

While welcoming such an office, Li Daguang, professor of science communication at the graduate university of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, warned that huge differences in culture and funding habits between the two countries will not be easily overcome.

"Much more work is needed to better understand the Chinese circumstances if the China-UK joint studies are to harvest important results," Li said.