Outcome Innovation Seminar oct. 2015

Innovation Delegation

In the end of October a delegation from the Netherlands visited Shanghai. We believe that the aim of this mission was to open the eyes for new opportunities, open the eyes for innovation. An aim our office highly encourages. On the last day of the missions visit we organized an innovation seminar which highlighted the potential of free of context open innovation. We entailed all participants to connect in an intensive innovation process outside their existing organization.

The participants consisted of a broad mix of people from the Netherlands that traveled with the delegation, start-ups finding their way in China, locals active in the field of innovation as well as corporates and multinationals operating all over the world. A broad interesting mix, which provided us with a lot of new knowledge and insights.

In the end we gathered all different kinds of expectations, thoughts and opinions on the various IncuBaits presented; Tradition, Open Education, City Life, Smart ++ and how to deal with Global Opportunities. Please find the topics discussed in the drawing attached. For more (background) information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Nobel Prize for Medicine links to Traditional Chinese Medicine

It would be fair to say that the Nobel Prize in China is a very ambiguous phenomenon. Since the 1950s, 6 Chinese nationals have been awarded The Prize. Given China’s turbulent past and its aftermath, it is not surprising that most of these prizes are domestically blurred by controversy. There are many factors that trigger political sensitivity (historical and distant links to the nationalist Kuomintang would already suffice) and due to anonymous research during the early days of the People’s Republic, only the ruling party could pinpoint candidates. Due to these internal challenges, it may be that China missed out on a few occasions to actually receive the Nobel Prize for scientific achievements. Most notorious has been the chemical synthesis of crystalline bovine insulin, a remarkable achievement in producing active insulin that was published in the journal Science in 1966 and made global news headlines. The President of the Nobel Foundation, Arne Tiselius, visited China in 1966. One can only speculate what happened if the researchers that guided him around would not have remained anonymous. After a lot of internal debates, only in 1978 the Chinese put forward a candidate for the insulin discovery. The Nobel Prize, however, was never awarded. From a Chinese perspective, the bovine insulin project only remained “nominated” for the Nobel Prize.

National strategies for scientific success are highly reflected in the insulin story. Prizes do not fall from the sky: they should be centrally approved, fit a high number of political trajectories, and benefit national progress. Modern-day China has made huge investments, and has witnessed impressive advances, in domestic scientific achievements. A Nobel Prize obtained by a homegrown Chinese investigator, obtained from achievements in the modernized Chinese research ecosystem, would provide objective evidence for China’s success as a world-class science hub. However, such a scientific Nobel Prize has always passed China. Until this year, when it was awarded to Dr. Tu Youyou, who discovered and purified artemisinin, a drug that has lead to a relative successful treatment regime for severe malaria and saved millions of lives.

Tu Youyou and her team started in the late 60s and published the crucial discoveries for this therapy in the 1980s. By digging through ancient Chinese medical literature, Tu noticed that plant extracts from the Sweet Wormwood repeatedly showed up in traditional treatments. She found out that artemisinin was the key component. After optimizing the extraction method, inspired by literature from the year 340 AD, she was able to successfully treat malaria-infected rodents and monkeys. At present, a modified version of the extract is part of the standard prevention treatments against malaria, which has played a significant role in reducing the mortality around 50%. Malaria is mainly a disease of the poor: a large part of the success story is its contribution to poverty alleviation.

The global impact of Dr. Tu’s achievements is still tangible. Dr. Tu has linked Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to a successful treatment method for a grand global health challenge and the Nobel Prize. Needless to say, apart from recognition and praise, in China the Prize remains its controversial allure. TCM advocates want to see more national strategies and priorities for TCM. Critics claim that dr. Tu was only part of a team and recognition should be shared. Chinese policymakers will be scratching their heads. In an era where China strongly bets on modernization of its science ecosystem, the first home-grown Nobel Prize sails in, originated from a secret military project of the early days of the People’s Republic; and rooted in literature from a period some 100+ years after the Han dynasty, a period which produced a wide range of scientific advances.

The first homegrown Nobel Prize in sciences for China is a fact. It derived from a pragmatic approach, ingenuity and a full exploitation of available resources. But it was not planned. In the end, this is about science. Failure is an option, and therefore success should be celebrated.

Further reading

  1. http://www.hlhl.org.cn/english/shownews.asp?newsid=379
  2. http://china-us.uoregon.edu/pdf/Minerva-2004.pdf
  3. https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/advanced-medicineprize2015.pdf
  4. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1865048/nobel-prize-tu-youyou-gives-traditional-chinese-medicine-shot-arm
  5. https://www.preceden.com/timelines/4078-china-dynasties–and-governments-
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_of_the_Han_dynasty

 

 

(Dutch) Start Ups in China and 60 Billion RMB State Support Fund

Startups are booming and they will be for the coming years. Recently the state council has decided to increase the intensity of the focus on startups in the years to come. The National SME Development fund is called to life to help the small startups with their first steps. With 15 billion RMB from the government and 45 billion RMB from other partners, there is plenty to share1,2.

Already in 2014 approximately 3.7 million new companies were registered according to the Chinese government3. The goal of the fund is to heighten the chance of success for these starting companies and to further increase the amount of companies that dare to start.

The Chinese connectivity and therefore market also grows in a high pace. At the 15th of October the news was shared that 140 billion RMB is reserved for a further upgrade of the telecommunications network. The goal is to have 98% of the people connected to the internet by 20204. This increases the market for startups which are often internet based of heavily reliant on the internet.

Unfortunately it’s unclear whether only Chinese companies are to enjoy the fund, but this is highly likely. This does not stop several Dutch startups to take their chances. Some examples are ‘Datenna’, ‘Seedlinktech’, ‘Design2gather’, ‘AskLab’, ‘TradeChanger’ and ‘21brains’.

However, the question that remains is: how many of these start-ups will succeed into successful and durable companies that sustain economic growth and provide jobs. Only the future can tell, but off course this is a promising start.

Sources:

  1. http://www.datenna.com/2015/09/08/60-billion-rmb-dream-fund-to-support-early-stage-startups/
  2. www.gov.cn
  3. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-06/17/content_21034744.htm
  4. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-10/15/content_22188940.htm

Competition in the medtech sector in Suzhou, China

Suzhou

Suzhou is home to two large industrial parks. These two parks compete for business, and the competition leads measures that enhance the attractiveness for Suzhou as a whole. For knowledge-intensive organisations, Suzhou is quickly implementing measures to boost the city’s innovative capacity. This article is based on a presentation by dr. Jiang Feng, vice chairman of the China association of the medical device industry during a medtech-partnering event in Suzhou in September.
Suzhou is a historical provincial town, where the Chinese elite would retreat in scenic gardens to unwind from their responsibilities in the big and bustling cities. Until today, Suzhou carries the reputation as a garden city; some of these ancient gardens still exist, though well hidden between concrete structures that host the lives and businesses of its 11 million residents.

With a GDP per capita higher than Shanghai, Suzhou cannot be regarded as an underdog in regional economic competition. Key to this may be a strong impetus for innovation in this region, and the successful establishment of the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), as well as the Suzhou New District (SND), both home to a large number of domestic and national (micro) electronics enterprises, life-science companies and research institutes, such as Philips Healthcare and the Holland High Tech Center China, a platform for the Dutch semiconductor industry in China.

What is the root of Suzhou’s success? This city seems accustomed to competition, and its successes may be the consequence of rivalry between local peers. Take, for instance, the local medtech sector, one of the prime focuses of the Suzhou municipality. Both SIP and SND aim to harbor very similar new companies and recruit similar talents. Local competition between these districts may eventually lead to a fast development of attractive selling points of these districts, and a greater influx of jobs in Suzhou.

Medtech Sector

On September 10, 2015, in a partnering event organized by the SND and its medtech organizations, Dr. Jiang Feng, vice chairman of the China association of the medical device industry, discussed issues related to the development of the medtech sector in Suzhou, and China. Given the location, he focused on potential of the SND, which he praised as an R&D focused, competitive, open, and largely independent initiative.

Dr. Feng mainly discussed his views on domestic innovation and how to improve relevant policies. The case presented itself as follows: while the medtech sector in China is enormously productive, none of the more than 16.000 registered companies rank high in any global R&D list. Dr. Feng questioned the idea that Chinese domestic products should eventually replace imported products. Instead, global partnerships should be stimulated. Furthermore, he addressed that policies should focus on increasing the ability to innovate, instead of giving directions to innovation.

One reason for the lack of Chinese industrial innovation may be the ideal of complete self-reliance in China, which is deeply rooted in Chinese companies as well. In China, many companies cover a full chain between R&D to commercialization. The consequential lack of collaboration – or shared responsibilities- inhibits innovation. These days, many companies “outsource” their internal innovation agenda to the government. Requirements from industry often do not match governmental interests, as the government focuses on disruptive and advanced innovation and therefore mainly invests in academic programs. For most companies, the results (new technologies and academic insights) are simply too advanced to implement.

For the medtech sector in Suzhou, Dr. Feng would like to give more support to incremental innovation, that lead to better design and performance of existing technologies. The government’s active role in this sector would focus on the development of a few good players. Furthermore, production and a market for low-to-middle end products should be discouraged. Suzhou should differentiate itself in areas where it is already excelling: management, design, processing and manufacturing.

Dr. Feng acknowledges that the government has recognized loopholes in the innovation schemes. Changes are under way, and according to dr. Feng, Suzhou is taking the lead in providing a transparent environment with the right ingredients for successful innovation in the medtech sector.

Reflections like Dr. Feng’s would have been surprising some years earlier. Nowadays, these words vocalize the more globalized workforce of talented local breeds and returnees, who would like to aim for competition on a global scale instead of catching up on a domestic scale. Such ideas are not limited to the medtech sector: remarks similar to dr. Feng’s may be heard throughout many innovative industries in China’s first and second tier cities.

Medtech companies that seek a connection to the Chinese market should probably not ignore Suzhou. This city has a proven ability to adapt, and knows that business thrives through competition.

Sources, further reading

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China%E2%80%93Singapore_Suzhou_Industrial_Park
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzhou_New_District
  3. http://www.nanopolis.cn/nanotechEnglish/hlgkj.htm
  4. http://www.chinawhisper.com/top-100-richest-cities-in-china-by-gdp-per-capita/