China & Northamptonshire - city by city approach

Northampton Borough Council Leader Jonathan Nunn signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mayor of Dalian

Image from left to right: Prof Shaowei He and Councillor Jonathan Nunn host the visiting VIP delegation from Dalian.
Image from left to right: Prof Shaowei He and Councillor Jonathan Nunn host the visiting VIP delegation from Dalian.

In July the concept of ‘collective impact’ – the public-private-academic-charity sectors working together for social good – but this can also be harnessed for business benefit, especially to promote Northamptonshire abroad. This is the case with the work of the University’s China & Emerging Economies Centre (CEEC) in generating partnerships between Northamptonshire and China.

With Brexit imminent, there is a drive to open new markets – and the biggest potential market of all is China. But to engage successfully with China it is worth remembering two things:

China is so big that it needs to be approached province by province - or even city by city

Political cover is essential – the support of Chinese local authorities makes all the difference

The key to China is to look for cities and provinces with similar strategic sectors to Northants. With over 150 Chinese cities having populations exceeding 1 million, in provinces with 60-100 million people, success in any one of these is the equivalent of opening a new national market.

Led by director Professor Shaowei He - with the support of the Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, David Laing – the CEEC has for the past two years been working with the Northampton Borough and Northants County Councils on an innovative Anglo-Chinese regional collaboration strategy. This targets Chinese provinces with strong logistics, advanced manufacturing as well as food & drink, footwear and creative & cultural industries.

Take Dalian, a coastal port city of 7 million in Liaoning province and the gateway to Northern China and a market of 70 million. Dalian has established an advanced manufacturing innovation park and is interested in attracting UK companies, on favourable terms, to set up R&D facilities with local partners. Dalian is especially interested in companies in and around the Silverstone Technology Cluster involved with motorsport and next generation vehicles.

Last October, Northampton Borough Council signed an MOU with Dalian, since followed by a reciprocal exchange of civic dignitaries. CEEC is hoping to announce further breakthroughs in the next few months, with significant civic, cultural and commercial exchanges. Working together for collective impact and business success.

If you would like to know more about the Lord-Lieutenant’s collective impact initiatives, please contact David Laing at

If you have a specific interest in China in terms of exports, joint R&D projects and/or investment/investor opportunities, and would like to know how CEEC can assist, please contact Shaowei at or Adrian at