March 5, 2015, by Emma Lowry

Ningbo students meet Prince William during his China visit

Two computer science students from The University of Nottingham Ningbo shared a stage with HRH The Duke of Cambridge, and the inventor of the World Wide Web in Shanghai this week.

Yue Li, 20, and Tianyi Chen, 18, were part of a five-minute presentation on what Shanghai and London might look like as tech-leading ‘smart cities’ by the year 2040 at the GREAT Festival of Creativity on 3 March.

Together with Prince William and Luyu Chen, a well-known Chinese talk show host, the two UNNC students outlined how cities can use technologies to meet future challenges in urban living. To address climate change, for instance, the students predicted flying cars run on environmentally-friendly energy as a common sight in the city skyline in 25 years’ time.


Afterwards, Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave a talk on how he developed the concept of the World Wide Web, along with his views on its current status and vision for the future.

The festival, which showcased British innovation and creativity in a swathe of sectors including fashion, health, technology, education and entertainment, was organised by the UK Embassy, the China-British Business Council, the British Council and UK Trade & Investment.

With their English language proficiency and knowledge of computer science, Yue and Tianyi were the only students to be chosen to participate in the festival in this way. Both were both extremely excited to meet their famous fellow speakers.

Meet the star

Tianyi Chen, a second-year computer science undergraduate from Beijing, felt “lucky” to have the opportunity to explain her ideas about smart cities to the Duke of Cambridge. “I thought I’d be nervous but in fact talking to him was the most relaxed I felt during my entire time on stage.”

She was also moved by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s speech and found him “very energetic and enthusiastic” and inspiring for her studies and career.

Yue Li, from Hefei, who is in her third-year, said she was honoured to be invited to the GREAT Festival and to meet Prince William — the first senior British Royal to visit China in nearly 30 years.

“’Smart cities’ is a hot topic in computer science and I was really excited to present my discipline in the presence of the prince and before the media,” she explained.

Being in the presence of royalty also made Tianyi and Yue “famous on campus”, especially when the news went viral on social media. “I now have something to tell my grandchild about!”

In addition to the students’ presentation, UNNC has supported the festival by coordinating a roadshow in Ningbo with the British Consulate Shanghai, inviting more than 30 leading companies and government representatives to participate.

Smart city research is a major priority for UNNC, which recently joined forces with the Ningbo Academy of Smart City Development.  Their findings will inform a major project by the Ningbo municipal government to use smart technology to improve services, such as waste management, and ultimately quality of life for its residents.

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