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China and UK boost cooperation in the world of design

Updated: 2015-09-25 18:58
By Cecily Liu (China Daily Europe)

The UK and China are increasingly cooperating in the field of creative industries and innovation, say experts at the First China-UK Design Forum, held in London's Victoria and Albert Museum on September 22.

The forum, organized by the Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association and Chinalink (London) Ltd, showcased some of the best examples of design in China and the UK in order to facilitate further bilateral cultural exchanges.

In addition, a memorandum of understanding to co-found the China-UK Design Link was signed on the same day by various organizations from both countries, including the Design Council, Design Business Association (DBA), the London Design Festival and the committee of London Design Biennale. The Link officially entered into the preparatory period.

The Link program will integrate both Chinese and British design resources, including academic institutions, design industry associations, companies, professionals, manufacturers, enterprises with purchasing needs of design, governmental creative industry parks, investment and financing institutions.

The Link will promote practical communication between Chinese and UK design communities by sharing industry and business information, assisting offline business connection, providing consulting services, organize exhibitions, inter-industry research, discussions, amongst other tasks.

John Sorrell, chairman of the London Design Festival, says the design industry is playing an increasingly important role in the UK, and transformation and upgrading of traditional manufacturing industry is needed in China; the establishment of the Link will infuse momentum into bilateral cooperation and will benefit both sides.

Sorrell is a key figure in the UK's design business, who has worked on promoting the development and cooperation of British innovation and design industry at home and abroad for many years.

He says that the development of the UK's design industry was seen as a solution to keep British manufacture industry at the top of the world before the end of World War II. This strategy led to the establishment of the Design Council to add value to traditional manufacture industries by innovative design, and this model could provide inspirations for China.

Xiang Xiaowei, minister counselor of cultural affairs at the Chinese Embassy in the UK, said that the UK and China have great potential for cooperation in culture and creative industries, including visual arts, design, drama, music, movie and sports.

Xiang says that China has transformed from 'Made in China' to 'Designed in China', and the government is very supportive of its cultural industry.

Xiang said the establishment of an improved Chinadesign industry will be an important breakthrough for the structural shift as the country's industries move up the value chain. "So it is a good time for us to concentrate on how we can create synergy between China and the UK."

He said that because 2015 is the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, already the two countries have achieved many important cultural collaborations, and he looked forward to more exchanges between the creative industries of both countries.

Yang Yang, CEO of the Makers Committee at Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association, shared with the audience many of his observations on the great transformations of China's design industry.

Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association has been hosting a stand at the UK's largest design trade event, 100% Design, in recent years, showcasing some of the best examples of design from China.

"We came to show what Shenzhen has done for the creative industry," Yang says.

According to Yang, 30 years ago Shenzhen was just a very small city without many of its distinctive characteristics, but this has changed and the city has since emerged as the largest manufacturer of electronics, responsible for over 90 percent of electronics worldwide.

"For example, in Shenzhen's electronics products center, Huaqiangbei, there is now a large concentration of all sorts of innovative electronic products, and many of these products are very creative," he says.

Founded in 2008, SIDA has grown to be one of the largest associations for industrial design today, with 700 memberorganisations, more than 6,000 in-house design departments, and over 100,000 designers working in Shenzhen.

Leading design industry experts giving presentations include Paul Priestman, director of his own firm PriestmanGoode, who is also the global creative director of CRRC Sifang, the Chinese high speed train company. His team has worked on various aspects of design for China's high speed train industry, to make it more user-friendly and comfortable.

Another key speaker is Michael Young, a British designer who currently works in Hong Kong. Young moved to Hong Kong in 2006 and now works with many leading brands in the region to come up with innovative designs, leveraging on Hong Kong's innovative environment and capability to bring design into efficient production.

The experiences of Priestman and Young demonstrated the lively cooperation between China and UK in design from the small and medium size business perspective. This cooperation exists alongside bigger initiatives and one example is the building of a gallery by London's Victoria and Albert Museum in Shekou, Shenzhen.

The gallery, to be opened in 2017, will showcase various pieces from the V&A's permanent collection. The first exhibition will focus on the idea of design, which will showcase 250 objects across different periods in history and will be displayed for two years.

Brendan Cormier, Shekou Project Curator of the V&A, says this collaboration is a very exciting opportunity for the museum.

Beth McKillop, Deputy Director of V&A, said that V&A has always attached great importance to the cooperation with China and it has long been fostering cross-cultural relationships with Chinese scholars, museum professionals and creative practitioners.

Meanwhile, the China Pavilion at 100% Design festival, organized by Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association, will be on display from Sep 23- 26, and it is a key event of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange.

To contact the reporter: cecily.liu@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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