Foreign entrepreneurs are reassessing their business interests in China as the world grapples with a protracted pandemic that shows no end in sight. At the Emerge 2021 conference held in Beijing on September 19, TechNode spoke with two foreign trade experts, Kiran Patel and José Roberto de Andrade Filho, about the collaboration between technology companies between China, UK and Brasil.
Kiran Patel is the Senior Director of the China-Britain Business Council. José Roberto de Andrade Filho is Advisor and Head of Technology and Innovation at the Brazilian Embassy in Beijing.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Kiran Patel on British commercial interests in China
TechNode: What are some of the growing opportunities in tech for UK and China?
Patel: The tech industry is a particularly difficult industry, especially with regulations, politics and data. There are so many challenges to overcome. But in terms of real opportunities, for UK and Chinese companies to work together, both for large industries and also with startups and SMEs (small and medium enterprises), we are seeing actions in medical technology, health and life sciences. . I would also cite other more specialized areas, such as advances materials and composites. Graphene, for example, is an area where the UK and China have partnership and collaboration, as well as in AI and big data.
China is still the world’s largest market. I spoke earlier of a middle class of over 400 million people. It’s a phenomenal market to tap into. We spend our time trying to tell businesses that this is not just a market of 1.4 billion people. It is a very nuanced market and a very specific market.
Despite the challenge of the pandemic, UK businesses are still looking heavily to China and the opportunities here.
TechNode: Can you give us some examples of the collaborations that the two countries have carried out?
Patel: I think since the two zones (free zones) were deployed as a key strategic policy, around 800 companies have invested. A fifth of these are international companies. China has its own goals to achieve, in terms of green growth, digitization, modernization of industry, etc. work with us to lead and conduct events, market promotion and guide businesses to explore political incentives, talent pool, savings on office space and more.
We have a wide range of partnerships and collaborations that allow us to set up platforms where you know a UK blockchain company or a company that is developing AI algorithms for commodity trading, for example example, can tap. They can establish partnerships and work with their counterparts on the Chinese side and develop business partners.
We held a competition earlier this year in Tianjin, for example, which saw the winning British company speak at the World Intelligence Conference this year.
José Roberto de Andrade Filho on China and Brazil technological collaboration
TechNode: What are some of the technological areas in which China and Brazil are working together?
Filho: In terms of government-to-government cooperation, we have done a lot of work to promote different areas such as the exchange of researchers. Smart cities and AI are key points of interest, along with the collaboration of technology parks, which is a key element that works very well between the two countries.
At the corporate level, large Brazilian companies that do business with China are already present here. They have their own innovation departments. I would name just a few, like Embraer, the aircraft company; Vale, the mining company; and Suzano, the pulp and paper company, one of the biggest in the world, in fact. They have innovative collaborations with incubators, with universities. We support this to open up new spaces for joint projects and business creation.
We also work with many universities. For example, in agriculture, there is CLAARI. CLAARI is a network of China-Latin American agricultural research institutions, led by the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou. This is a very recent network that was created a few months ago. And we had the participation of more than 10 Brazilian universities at this time.
TechNode: Why are Brazilian companies interested in coming to China, especially those in the tech sector?
Filho: China is undoubtedly increasingly recognized as a key center for innovation. I see in other countries, many companies coming to innovate in China, and not necessarily for the Chinese market, but to hire engineers here, to set up their own R&D centers and laboratories to manufacture products and services. Some companies are researching new products here in China.
I think it’s important to say that in China you can find talent. Every year, hundreds of thousands of highly skilled engineers graduate here in China, as well as foreign talents who come here. So you have people, you have capital. There are a lot of investors. China is the second largest financial market in the world. So if you want to invest in your product. And you have the ecosystem, Beijing is one of the best examples, especially now with the two zones and Zhongguancun.
Zhongguancun’s story is a very good example, recognized around the world. It’s an ecosystem where you can find everything you need to grow your business. Once you have a great idea, or gradually build on the business you have today, you start to think of innovative ways. This is something that not only Brazilians but many foreigners have recognized.