SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Sustainability Hub in China

The STEPS Centre, is working with Beijing Normal University’s School of Social Development and Public Policy (SSDPP) and other partners to create a Sustainability Hub in China. 

The Hub was launched at an international conference on Pathways to Sustainability in a Changing China on 20-21 April 2015.

The hub is one of six hubs spread across five continents, forming the Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium,  an emerging new international network to tackle the most pressing sustainability challenges facing the world now and in decades to come.

Over three decades, SPRU and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, which jointly run the STEPS Centre have worked closely with Chinese colleagues on the problems of science and innovation for development.

Since 2006 the STEPS Centre’s UK-China projects have provided cutting edge interdisciplinary research and engagement with key ministries, academic institutions and think tanks and the new China Sustainability Hub builds on this work and that of the Chinese partners.

Responding to the shared global goals of sustainable and equitable development that confront both the UK and China, the collaborative work investigates the interactions between science, technology, environment and society to inform decision-making at different levels of government.

The STEPS Centre’s work in China covers three interlinked areas: Agricultural transformations, food security and food safety; technology collaboration for international development (including health); and low carbon innovation and sustainable cities.

The conference was preceded by a one day Masterclass involving early career researchers and students from BNU and other Chinese universities with STEPS Centre members and alumni. The event explored the STEPS pathways approach and pathways methods and methodologies

Research Projects involving members of SPRU

·          UK-China collaboration on low carbon technology transfer STEPS Centre energy convenors David Ockwell and Rob Byrne worked with the Sussex Energy Group and Tsinghua University Laboratory for Low Carbon Energy on a collaborative project to investigate the role of technology transfer in fostering low carbon innovation innovation. Funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the project focussed on specific case studies: energy efficiency in the cement industry, highly efficient coal-fired power generation, electric vehicles, and offshore wind power.

·         Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto The STEPS Centre New Manifesto project explored debates around innovation and sustainability and development with partners across the world. Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management hosted the STEPS Centre and partners in a bilateral workshop in March 2010 on ‘UK-China Innovation Workshop for Sustainable and Equitable Development.’ Charting pathways for bilateral research and policy collaboration, and the role of UK-China partnerships in international development.

·         Rethinking Regulation: Seeds and drugs in China and Argentina This project compared the regulation of two technologies – transgenic cotton seeds and antibiotics – with the way those technologies are experienced amongst poorer communities in rural Argentina and rural China. Through case studies in both countries, we have explored the implementation challenges facing regulators. The project aimed to understand how to improve regulatory capacity, and identify fruitful ways of rethinking regulation.

·         Responding to zoonotic and related diseases in intensifying livestock systems: diverse framings and pathways. Emerging infectious diseases have become a cause of major public concern. Most of the new diseases in the last half century have come from animals, and many have reached humans through livestock. The intensification of livestock production is thought to make the problem worse. This project explores how different groups understand these diseases, how they see intensification, what different pathways for the future can be envisaged and how these pathways can be opened up for broader consideration.


 Both the Masterclass and conference were hosted by Beijing Normal University School of Social Development and Public Policy in partnership with the STEPS Centre and under the auspices of the Ministry of Education’s 2011 Cooperative Platform on Innovation, Governance and Development. Funding for this conference was received from the UK Economic and Social Research Council through the Newton Fund.