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2nd STF Conference on EU–China Research Collaborations through People-to-People Exchanges



Following on from the very successful 1st STF Conference held in March 2011, the 2nd STF Conference was held at the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing on Wednesday May 16 2012. The conference was attended by approximately 140 participants, with a good mix of European and Chinese nationalities, including the STF Fellows, Science Counsellors from the EUD and embassies of member states, officials from Chinese government bodies as well as EU academics working in China and Chinese academics with experience of working in Europe.

 The morning session was devoted to promoting the mobility of European researchers to China. The opening addresses were given by Dr. Phillipe Vialatte, Head of the Science, Technology and Environment Section and Mr. Lei Fengyun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Educational and Cultural Experts of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. 

The morning plenary lecture was given by Prof. Plinio Innocenzi, who is a Full Professor of Materials Science in the University of Sassari in Italy and also Science Counsellor in the Embassy of Italy in Beijing. Not only was he able to comment on the STF Programme as both an active researcher and as someone involved in promoting EU–China links, as he told the audience he had had the privilege of being one of several hundred Fellows on the earlier EU STF Japan Programme (joining the 8th out of 11 intakes). In a very amusing and thought-provoking talk, Prof. Innocenzi talked about the lessons he had learnt as an STF Fellow and described how he had subsequently built on his experience with his STF host institution in Japan, where he is now a visiting professor with a joint lab and where he spends some time working every year.

After a break for coffee and networking, Mr. Jacques de Soyres, coordinator of EURAXESS Links China, elaborated on the challenges and opportunities for mobility of European researchers to China and gave an overview of the services EURAXESS Links provides to promote links between EU and China researchers.

The final phase of the morning session consisted of presentations from two of the Fellows. Dr. Antonella Forganni, based in the Department of Law in Beijing Normal University, reviewed her work on International Law related to anti-dumping and Dr. Filippo Bedani, gave an overview of his research on the use of chromatographic techniques carried out in the Chinese Academy of Sciences Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. Before this however, Filippo used very fluent Chinese to introduce himself and his academic career to date and describe his life in China. This was an impressive achievement, given that he was a complete beginner at the start of the STF Chinese language programme.

The lunch break provided an opportunity for participants to view the posters describing the research accomplishments of the STF2 Fellows. To encourage them to do this, participants were given a list of posters and invited to choose their three favorite posters and the conference speakers also judged each of the posters. A number of posters describing other EU-funded projects in China were also on display, to highlight the range of EU-funded activities in China to the Chinese participants, in particular.

The afternoon session was mainly devoted to promoting the mobility of Chinese researchers to Europe. The plenary lecture was given by Dr. Na Jie, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Tsinghua University. She described how after completing her PhD in the US, many of her Chinese colleagues were surprised when she moved to Europe for postdoctoral research and stressed that this shows that the EU needs to continue to publicize its achievements and show that it is a worthy alternative to the US as a destination for Chinese researchers wishing to work abroad. She described her work in the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge University in the UK and highlighted the advantages of working in a very multinational institution where the group leaders and researchers come from all over the world.

For the subsequent roundtable discussions, the participants were divided into two groups of lab-based and non-lab-based researchers. The discussion of lab-based researchers was facilitated by Dr. Sam Linsen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences–Max Planck Society Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, and the discussion of non-lab-based researchers was facilitated by Dr. Enrico Fardella of the Department of History in Peking University.

After the roundtable discussions the participants rejoined together to hear a presentation from Ms. Jessica Mitchell of the EU Delegation’s Science and Technology Section who described the various EU schemes to promote researcher mobility, in particular the current Marie Curie Actions and the future Horizon 2020 Programme.

Before the closing session, Mr. Lars Andersen, Deputy Team Leader of the EU–China River Basin Management Programme, another EU project in an area of strategic importance to both the EU and China, provided a useful overview of the China Europe Water Platform which offers a new platform for dialogue, joint research and private sector cooperation on better management of water resources .

At the end of the afternoon session, the two facilitators of the roundtable discussion and the two plenary speakers made their closing comments and remarks, bringing the formal conference to a close.  

The conference participants were joined at the official Closing Ceremony of the STF Programme by another ~15 senior guests including H.E. Markus Ederer (photo right, right 1), Ambassador of the European Union and Madam Zhang Xiuqin(photo left, left 3rd), Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges in the Ministry of Education (MoE). The ceremony was chaired by Ms. Alexandra Lehmann, Attaché at the EU Delegation. Ambassador Ederer reviewed the strategic cooperation between the EU and China and highlighted the benefits to both sides. He congratulated the STF Fellows for having the foresight to join such a pioneering programme. He was also pleased to hear that several of the Fellows had received research funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China during their time on the STF Programme. He thanked the Fellows for being very effective “ambassadors” for Europe during their time in China, and hoped that when they returned to Europe they would act as “interpreters” by helping Europe in general, and European researchers in particular, to understand China better.

The Lead Expert of the Programme, Mr. Clemens Smolders, provided a review of the four years of the STF from its beginning with only one member of staff and no office, through the selection and of two intakes of Fellows up to the conference marking the end of the Programme today. He thanked all of the STF office staff as well as staff in the EU Delegation for their help and unfailing support throughout the past four years. 

The poster prizes were presented to the winning Fellows by Mr. Johan Cauwenbergh, Minister Counsellor and Head of Operations at the EU Delegation:

First Prize:

Dr. Benjamin Guinot (Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Earth Environment, Xi’an): “Air Pollution and Health: Characterizing Schoolchildren Exposure to Fine and Ultrafine Aerosols”

Second Prizes: 

1).Dr. Antonella Forganni (School of Law, Beijing Normal University): “The EU–China Relationship in the Last Decade—A Legal Analysis”

2).Dr. Artur Loza (Institute of Image Processing and Pattern recognition, Shanghai Jiaotong University): “Video tracking and Image Enhancement for Surveillance and Monitoring”. 

A group of Fellows then presented an amusing performance recollecting some of the highlights of the language and intercultural training and their time in China. The affection they feel for China and their Chinese hosts and friends was clearly apparent in the performance. 

Finally Alexandra Lehmann invited all of the Fellows to join her on the stage to warm applause from the participants. The event concluded with a networking dinner.