International research at the University of Birmingham has received a boost, thanks to successful bids for funding that will see key projects supported by the Guangzhou Municipal Government in China.

It continues a relationship that began with the Collaboration Framework Agreement with Guangzhou Municipal Government announced in 2011, under which the Guangzhou government provides funding to support joint research between academics of the University of Birmingham and Guangzhou partners.

Four UoB-GMG joint projects have been successful in bidding for the 2016 research funding from Guangzhou Municipal Government, which are:

  • Transcranial direct stimulation (tDCS) research, led by Professor Kim Shapiro
  • T cell immunophenotype and functionality, led by Dr Zania Stamataki
  • Microscopic urban rail transit simulation, led by Dr Lei Chen
  • Information management and energy feedback system in battery manufacturing process, led by Professor Xiaoping Zhang

Receiving GBP200K government funding and the match funding from local partners, the research work will primarily be undertaken by the local research partner with technical support from the Birmingham academics. 

These projects bring together the research strengths of the University with the needs of the Guangzhou market. The outcomes of the research projects will not only drive the economy of the region and provide social benefits, but will also enhance the University’s overall engagement with China, the second largest economy in the world. The University of Birmingham has been ranked by RCUK as third in the UK for joint publications with Chinese academics.

During 2011-2014, a total of 15 joint research projects have been launched in Guangzhou under the UoB-GMG initiative, covering the areas of medical science, manufacturing technologies, power, transport and social sciences.  Building on this success, some of the projects have also won funding from the UK research councils and China’s National Science Foundation.

Introduction to the four research projects

Transcranial Direct Stimulation research, in partnership with Guangzhou First Municipal People Hospital

The project aims to test the effects of transcranial direct stimulation (tDCS) to improve short-term (working) memory in patients who have experienced neurological difficulties including stroke, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Various measures will be used to assess memory improvement, including tests from the Birmingham Cognitive Screen (BCoS), previously established for use in Southern China in the preceding University of Birmingham-Guangzhou project.

Evidence in the literature suggests stimulation to left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) improves both working and declarative memory in non-patient and patient populations.  However, it is not clear from the literature 1) for which patient populations tDCS is effective, 2) for how long tDCS is effective following treatment of varying duration.  For this testing a sensitive assessment instrument of cognitive function is necessary.  We will test the tablet version of the BCoS for its ability to assess the effects of tDCS as described above.  A Cantonese version of the BCoS has been developed in the Guangzhou No. 1 Hospital in a previous project and shown to be sensitive to cognitive deficits in populations experiencing stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumour, and dementia.  Here we will measure its ability to assess working memory changes (n-back task; change detection task) and modify as necessary to achieve this aim.

 T cell immunophenotype and functionality, in partnership with Sun Yat-sen University Third Affiliated Hospital

Based at the Centre for Liver Research, we are experienced in the design and application of translational research using physiologically relevant models for human liver inflammation, such as lymphocyte migration assays under sheer flow to study trans-endothelial migration and ex vivo assays to investigate liver pathology in precision cut human liver slices.  Multi-parameter flow cytometry analyses for T cell immunophenotyping are currently underway to characterize T cell responses in ImmunoTACE, a clinical trial testing the efficacy of monocyte-derived DC from patients with liver cancer, presenting peptides from tumor antigens.  Dr Stamataki has recently developed highly sensitive lymphocyte migration assays through hepatic epithelia that reveal previously unappreciated potential for T cell activation.  This project is to perform detailed immunophenotyping of the T cell compartment in CHB patients before and after vaccination with monocyte-derived DC/HBsAg; and to characterize T cell function before and after vaccination with monocyte-derived DC/HBsAg, using our in-house highly sensitive, liver relevant T cell functional assays.

Microscopic urban rail transit simulation, in partnership with Guangzhou Metro

This project aims to develop a microscopic urban rail transit simulation solution for Guangzhou metro systems, which is able to simulate, model and analyse the Guangzhou metro system operations thus improve the safety and efficiency of Guangzhou metro systems.  Furthermore, the project aims to model the metro DC power supply network; analyse the regenerative braking energy storage and application technologies; optimise the infrastructure configuration, operation timetable and control strategy to minimise energy consumption.

Information management and energy feedback system in battery manufacturing process,in partnership with Qingtian Enterprise

The main objective of this project is to develop a complete set of information management and energy feedback system in battery manufacturing process, including the monitoring and scheduling, statistical analysis and energy management in the entire battery production process, from the front-end systems of battery production (ingredients, coating, film production, laser welding, winding, packing, liquid injection), to the post-processing system (formation, hot and cold pressing, capacity grading, code spraying, packing and shipping, etc).  It also saves effectively important data of the entire production process from the front-end production process to the post-processing of battery during the manufacturing process, providing the data analysis and queries tracing to users.  This project is an excellent example to show how smart system concept and method can be implemented in the battery manufacturing process.


The China Institute and the University Guangzhou Centre are supporting Birmingham academics interested in establishing research links with China. For further enquiries, contact the team.