This is a summary of a range of projects with which the LUMS and LCMC have been involved. The most recent projects are listed first, but LUMS has been engaged in collaborative research in China for over 20 years:
In July 2004 Professors David Brown (Director of the LCMC) and Alasdair MacBean (Emeritus Professor of Economics) were awarded a major €300k research contract under the EU’s Asia-Link programme. The Asia-Link Programme is an initiative by the European Commission to promote sustainable regional and multilateral networking between higher education institutions in EU Member States and South Asia, South-East Asia and China.
The 2.5-year project is being undertaken in partnership with Stockholm University School of Business, University of Science and Technology, Beijing (BSTU) and the National University of Laos. LUMS, through its Centre for Management in China is the co-ordinating institution. This is the second large award that staff in the School have secured from one of the EU’s Asia programmes. In April 2002 David Brown was awarded EU-Asia-Link funding for a project on the use of information technology in Vocational and Technical Education in Lao PDR and Sri Lanka (Asia IT&C Programme).
The aim of the new research project is to improve management education in two rapidly developing areas ‘E-Business’ and ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’, with particular emphasis on the development of young faculty and post-graduate students. Ongoing activities include staff and student exchanges, workshops, use of existing courses in management e.g. on research methods, and building experience through participating in joint projects.
Participants at the first Asia Link workshop at Lancaster
Leader of the research project, David Brown said “we are very pleased to have received this award whose strategic value will be to develop human resources at the university level in Lao PDR and China in two critical subject areas and through their graduates yield major, long-lasting economic and social benefits to their respective economies”.
There is a full web site devoted to this important project.
AIM research projects
1: Capability Development and Learning in China-Based Partnerships
Who is learning what in corporate alliances between foreign multinationals and Chinese firms and why does it matter? What are the implications for future strategy and competitive advantage?
This project, whose core researchers are Professor Mark Easterby-Smith (Management Learning & Leadership) and a team from Warwick Business School, led by Dr Simon Collinson, involves three concurrent studies running to Autumn 2007. Together they represent over £200,000 of funding from the ESRC and the EPSRC under the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) research. One focuses on large British multinational enterprises (MNEs), another on UK small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the third on European and US multinationals. All three studies have the same objectives.
The research examines how partnerships between foreign firms and their Chinese counterparts in China-based alliances, joint-ventures and buyer-supplier agreements are established and evolve over time. It focuses on collaborative innovation to understand the current scope and future implications of joint product or process development projects, technology-sharing, training and joint-learning activities within these partnerships.
One aim is to compare the benefits of being in China against the potential that foreign firms are ‘breeding’ their future competitors there. We are looking to understand the strategic trade-offs being made by each firm. What is it learning in return for sharing particular assets or capabilities with local Chinese partners? Also, how much have the realised trade-offs differed from the anticipated trade-offs and how are senior managers responding to this shift in reciprocity?
A series of case-studies of alliances and joint-projects within firms are being compiled through semi-structured interviews in China and at the home-country locations of the participating MNEs. Vodafone, GlaxoSmithKline, Oxford Instruments and Airbus are amongst the firms involved to-date. The anticipated outcomes of the three studies will be of interest to managers and policymakers. Some practical lessons regarding the challenges of the China market and the management of local partnerships are emerging from the research. More complex insights into the strategic management of core assets, capabilities and knowledge in global firms, and the restructuring of multinational value chains are also emerging.
Key policy implications stem from a better understanding of the main, leading industries in which China is developing competitive capabilities. Insights into industry-level learning races will improve our understanding of the time-scale over which China is likely to develop competitive advantages in specific technologies or sub-sectors. This will help support the process of response and adaptation in firms and industries affected by the opportunities and threats posed by China’s rapid economic development.
2: International Knowledge Transfer and Dynamic Capabilities of MNCs
Professor Mark Easterby-Smith (Management Learning and Leadership) secured grant research funding from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) research initiative from 2003 to 2006. The project focused on dynamic capabilities of multinational companies (MNCs) operating in China. The principal researchers were Professor Mark Easterby-Smith and Dr Shenxue Li. They undertook their initial field study in collaboration with some leading multinationals (including Siemens, Ericsson, BASF, HSBC and Allianz) in 2004.
The rise of China and its strategic position in the world have offered a good context to investigate the dynamics of an emerging market and explore how MNCs ride the waves of environmental changes there. The MNC is engaged in intensive knowledge transfer across-borders. However, its success in a dynamic market like China does not only rest on the technological and managerial knowledge it transferred to China, although that is crucially important. Understanding the fundamental differences of this particular market and accordingly deploying relevant business strategies by developing new capabilities, reallocating firm resources, and reorganising its business structure and routines will bring the MNC a competitive edge.
The theory of organisational learning assumes that there is a link between organisational learning and the firm’s dynamic capabilities. This study examines the relevance of this proposition within the context of MNCs in China.
Dr Dermot Williamson (Honorary Fellow in the LCMC) has been granted funding of £2,000 from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) for a preliminary phase of research. He is jointly conducting this research with Cynthia Li Mingfei of Dalian University of Technology in China. The research is producing field-based case studies into enterprise risk management and performance management with two companies in the UK and two Chinese companies.
Contribution of Chinese Community to the local economy
William Liu, a graduate of Lancaster University with two MA degrees, one in Sociology and one in Social Statistics, has recently carried out a pilot research project into the contribution of the Chinese community in Greater Manchester to the economy and society of the area. The intention is that this will be a pilot for a later study into their contribution to the UK as a whole.
The Northwest Regional Development Agency provided financial support and assistance with access to local organisations. The project has also been funded by the LCMC and has been supervised by Professor Alasdair MacBean.
Academic Links with China Scheme (ALCS)
Two of the School's early relationships within China were through the ALCS programme. This was managed by the British Council's Higher Education Group and funded by the British and Chinese governments.
(i) University of Science and Technology, Beijing (Management School)
This was the first of LUMS' involvements with China and was the particular concern of Professor Mark Easterby-Smith (Management Learning & Leadership). A regular programme of exchange visits was funded by the British Council between 1984 and the early 1990s. During this period 10 Chinese professors visited Lancaster for periods of 6 weeks to 7 months, and staff from Management Learning & Leadership ran 2-week workshops in Beijing each year on aspects of management education and development. These workshops were attended by senior cadres from Ministries and companies, and by professors from a total of 32 Chinese universities. These contacts led to a major collaborative research project (see below).
(ii) University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)
This link was set up in 1986 by Professor David Brown and continued for five years.
Six senior Chinese professors have visited Lancaster, including President Chen Zhunmin and Vice President Shi Weisan, gaining valued experience across the Management School. In return, Professor Brown, Paul Ferguson (then in Economics) and Mr Peter Spillard (then in Marketing) all visited UIBE, both lecturing and running research seminars. More recently the British Council has further supported the link with the donation of a significant library grant to build up UIBE's collection of UK management books.
Outside the ALCS arrangement, but directly arising from it, two UIBE staff were funded for their MSc in Information Management in LUMS.
United Nations Project
Professor David Brown and Professor Mark Easterby-Smith represented LUMS in a consortium of five universities: Universities of Lancaster, Manchester and Keele in the UK and the three universities of South Carolina and British Colombia in North America. The consortium secured a $3.5m contract under the United Nations Development Programme. The Chinese partners were the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) for the academic links and the Ministry of Foreign Trade (MOFERT) as the internal sponsor.
The projects aims were threefold:
- to research the training needs of managers in the international trade sector
- to train the senior managers of appropriate major enterprises
- to help the Chinese develop the capability to provide such training using their own resources
For the latter, the programme provided for the establishment of a national centre of excellence for the training of Chinese teachers of International Business at UIBE. The centre now offers a Masters in International Business Education for academics throughout China, and both the course curriculum and teaching processes combine the best Western and Chinese practices.
The UK co-ordinator was David Brown who visited China in September and December 1989 to launch the project, which lasted 3 years. During this time the training of managers and UIBE faculty was undertaken in China, the UK and North America. The first group of senior managers was involved in a successful visit to Lancaster in Summer 1990.
ESRC research project
Decision Making in Chinese and UK Companies: A Collaborative Study
This research arose directly from the ALCS links established over the preceding six years by the Department of Management Learning and The Management School. The project, based at Lancaster, commenced in November 1990 and was conducted in collaboration with the University of Science and Technology, Beijing and with the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge using funds provided by the ESRC, the British Council and the Chinese National Science Funding Council.
The focus for the research was a comparative study of decision making processes in the steel and chemical industries in the UK and China. It involved the study of specific decisions in the areas of human resource management and technological investments in strategic enterprises matched between the two countries.
The principal Lancaster researchers were Professors Mark Easterby-Smith and David Brown. A joint UK and Chinese research team was appointed to carry out the field work, initially in China and then in the UK. A total of six major steel and chemical companies, three from each country, collaborated in the research. Managers from the participating companies were also involved in reciprocal visits.
The main source of funding was the UK Economic and Social Science Research Council with additional support from the British Council and the British companies involved - a total of £100,000. In China the research was funded by the prestigious China National Science Funding Council, the universities and the participating Chinese corporations. The project was able to demonstrate a surprising number of similarities in the decision-making processes around strategic investments and human resources. In both countries a combination of formal and informal communication channels were used - the informal channels generally being used to speed up formal processes. The main differences were found in the detail of decision-making procedures and the 'soft' aspects of HRM (such as reward and promotion procedures). These differences were seen to result from a combination of cultural and institutional factors.
The outputs of the project were evaluated by the ESRC and the NSFC as "outstanding", and results have led to publications in a number of prestigious journals, including Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies and International Journal of HRM.
Sources of funding for collaborative programmes in China
A webpage has been created to help colleagues secure funding to develop collaborative programmes.