John Innes Centre director receives China’s top science award

Professor Dale Sanders

Director of the John Innes Centre (JIC), Professor Dale Sanders, has been granted one of China’s most prestigious awards.

The award recognises his work in fostering world-leading research collaborations with China.

International Science and Technology Cooperation Award

The China International Science and Technology Cooperation Award is made directly by the Chinese state and is the nation’s highest scientific honour for non-national individuals and institutions.

In 2014, JIC established the Centre of Excellence for Plant and Microbial Sciences (CEPAMS).

The centre is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

CEPAMS has fostered excellent, productive research collaborations, and established new, world-leading laboratories.

Excellence-based research collaboration

CEPAMS has funded over 30 collaborative research projects in agricultural genetics and the discovery of naturally produced molecules that have the potential to benefit human health.

The partnership has recruited 10 CEPAMS group leaders who have set up research laboratories in either Beijing or Shanghai.

JIC also collaborates on wheat and pea genomics with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen.

Traditionally, the award is presented in person by President Xi Jinping at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic this was not possible this year.

Instead, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed his thanks to the foreign scientists at the ceremony earlier this month.

Strengthening scientific excellence

Professor Sanders said:

This is a great honour.

Although it is a wonderful personal recognition of my cooperation with China, I receive this award on behalf of all my Chinese and UK collaborators and in gratitude for all their work.

I see a very bright future for UK-China research collaboration.

We must ensure that our work together strengthens the scientific excellence of both nations, but we must also recognise that our success comes with a responsibility to share the benefit with society in the UK, in China and globally.

I expect that UK-China research collaboration will have great impact in the coming decade, including on agricultural productivity, on the wellbeing of our citizens and on the health of our planet.

Outstanding contribution

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

Professor Sanders’ recognition through this prestigious award is thoroughly deserved, and reflects his outstanding contribution to international research collaboration.

UKRI has strong research partnerships with China, which benefit both our citizens and the wider world.

This award highlights the strength of those partnerships and our support of a collaborative and secure global research and innovation system that harnesses the collective expertise of scientists and innovators as we work together to navigate the global challenges of our time.

Frontiers of human knowledge

Mr Jiang Sunan, the Science Minister Counsellor from the Chinese Embassy in London, also added:

Congratulations to Professor Dale Sanders on winning the 2020 International Science and Technology Cooperation Award of the People’s Republic of China.

Heartfelt thanks to Professor Sanders for cooperating with Chinese researchers to jointly advance botany research.

Open cooperation is an inherent requirement for scientific and technological innovation to cope with common human challenges such as climate change, food security, major infectious diseases, biodiversity, and so on.

China stands ready to establish in-depth cooperation with all countries in the world, including the UK to actively advance the frontiers of human knowledge and make further contribution to the development of the world.

Top image:  Credit: John Innes Centre

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