N8 explores future research collaboration opportunities with France

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A delegation of N8 university leaders has visited France to explore collaboration opportunities.

The visit was organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Science & Innovation Network, with the N8 delegation led by Professor Koen Lamberts, chair of N8 and Vice-Chancellor of the University of York.

The delegation also included N8’s Director Dr Peter Simpson, Professor Steve Decent (Lancaster), Professor Lisa Richards (Leeds), Professor Nick Wright (Newcastle), and Professor Anthony Hollander (Liverpool).

The importance of international partnerships in research for the UK was underlined by the participation in the N8 visit of the interim UK Ambassador to France, Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, and Prof Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCO.

It included meetings with senior leaders and academics at the rapidly developing campus of Université Paris-Saclay, and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

CNRS is the largest governmental research organisation in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, employing 38,000 people.

Paris-Saclay is a research-intensive university and business cluster encompassing research facilities, universities, French higher education institutions and research centres of private companies.

Eighteen research organisation (two universities, seven research centres, nine major engineering and business schools) have decided to join forces to create Université Paris-Saclay to meet the challenges of global competition in terms of education, research and innovation. This will create a hugely powerful combined university (>15% of total French research capacity) within an extensive international business-focussed campus to the south of Paris.

Discussions between the parties centred on mechanisms for ensuring strong UK-France research collaborations post-Brexit, with example areas of mutual interest in AgriFood, global development, urban studies and robotics.

Dr Peter Simpson, Director of N8 Research Partnership

Dr Simpson said: “This was a great opportunity for us to raise the profile of the N8 universities with a key international partner, and to understand the ongoing changes in the French Higher Education sector. It was mutually helpful to explore specific opportunities in which we can work together more closely and ensure the UK remains at the centre of European research partnerships.

“More than ever, British universities need their friends ahead of the negotiations on leaving the European Union and we see maintaining strong relationships with European partners as fundamental to the success of any UK industrial strategy.

“Universities are, by their very nature, international organisations. There are many existing research links between N8 universities and both CNRS and other members of Université Paris-Saclay. We hope this visit can galvanise further ambitious research partnerships with France.”