Tech in China is no longer about imitation but innovation

Once the laughing stock worldwide due to a tendency to copy technology, China is now pioneering new gadgets and consumer goods. For years China has been thought of as simply the factory of the world with the ubiquitous ‘made in China’ label omnipresent on all new technology. However, in recent years China has rocketed up the list of innovative countries and is now designing as well as manufacturing new and innovative products. China aims to become a country of innovation.

 

A latecomer to the innovation game

According to the Global Innovation Index, China didn’t even enter the top 25 most innovative countries until 2016. The index, a collaboration between WIPO, Cornell University and INSEAD, ranks world economies’ innovation capabilities and their results.

 

China still has a way to go to compete with the leaders – Switzerland has come out on top for the past five years – but with its recent push towards innovation, it may just edge up higher on this year’s list.

Taking CES 2017 by storm

More evidence of China’s progress is the huge amount of Chinese exhibitors who showcased their products at CES earlier this year. China had the second-most delegates (behind the USA) with 1,575 Chinese companies attending. At least 700 Chinese exhibitors came from the ‘Chinese Silicon Valley’ area of Shenzhen which now makes about 70% of the world’s mobile phones, and an incredible 90% of personal computers.

 

After CES 2017, China made headlines around the world because of their innovative new tech, in particular their consumer goods and electronics. Sonirock Inc, founded in Shenzhen in early 2016, unveiled Sonicam, a 3D camera that uses 64 microphones to record spatial sound for a virtual reality experience. Industry giant Huawei, now the third-biggest smartphone producer in the world, unveiled Mate 9, a so-called phablet. The phone integrates Amazon’s voice-controlled AI Alexa and has a dual-lens Leica camera.

State-funded support for innovation

This jump innovation is no happy accident; it’s a concerted effort on the part of the government who are hoping to “foster innovation and entrepreneurship within the internet sector, via a market approach” by setting up an Internet Investment Fund, co-sponsored by the Cyberspace Administration of China and the Ministry of Finance.

 

The fund, which is currently at 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) will invest in and support internet companies in the hope of pushing China into the ‘internet-plus’ era. Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO states: “This is in keeping with all the developments that we have seen in China in recent years, including the use of innovation as a major component in the transition of the Chinese economy from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’”

What might the future hold?

It seems China is only just getting started along its path of innovation. Government guidelines were unveiled in May revealing three main goals for the years ahead: China is aiming to be an ‘innovative nation’ by 2020; an ‘international leader in innovation’ by 2030; and a ‘world powerhouse of scientific and technological innovation’ by 2050.

 

This is why students of the Global Entrepreneurship Program will study courses such as ‘Managing Business Development and Innovation’ and will visit high profile firms such as Alibaba as part of their program of study at our partner Zhejiang University’s School of Management in Hangzhou, China. Getting real-world experience of a country puts the theory of the modules into context and is vital for a deeper understanding of the role China plays in the global market.

 

It’s not only the government that is putting its money where its mouth is, companies are investing a lot of their own money in R&D. Richard Yu, Huawei’s chief executive told the BBC that he expected the company to spend $10bn on research and development – roughly in line with Apple.

 

As we can see from Stanford University’s recent study tech innovation is undoubtedly good for countries’ economies. With all the money being invested into innovation it’s clear that China has taken this advice, having a comprehensive strategy to become a trailblazer in the world of tech, and to benefit from all the advantages that that brings.

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