It’s all go for Suzhou

Viclink is spearheading a move to establish a joint China-New Zealand Innovation Center, based in China’s Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), to open up scientific, technological and investment activities between the two countries.


The aim of the Centre is to support the operation of New Zealand-headquartered sci-tech enterprises in China, with a particular focus on bio-medicine, nanotechnology, new materials and new-generation information technology.


A signing ceremony to mark the beginning of the venture was held on 20 September at SIP—one of China’s leading industrial parks, and home to some 25,000 companies, including Fortune 500 giants such as Samsung, UPS and Motorola. The park occupies a 288 sq km area in eastern Suzhou and aims to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in high-tech industries.


“We’re still negotiating the details, but so far we’ve been offered a significant amount of space, rent-free, plus some funding and the secondment of two staff to help us connect to the Chinese government and potential investors,” says Geoff Todd, Viclink’s Managing Director.


Geoff says that connections and networks are a huge part of doing business in China, as introductions are essential to connecting with key decision-makers. He says that much of their current success in making those connections has been thanks to Peter Lai—Viclink’s Senior Commercialisation Manager for Asia, and soon-to-be CEO of the Innovation Centre.


“The government is a big part of business life in China, and Peter’s networks within government and business have proven invaluable to us time and again,” says Geoff. “His experience and connectedness have also ensured that the people we are dealing with are very much part of the government-approved infrastructure, which helps us to mitigate risk.”


Peter himself says he’s excited about the opportunities that the Innovation Centre offers: “It’s the perfect ‘soft landing pad’ for Viclink to commercialise some of Victoria’s mature technology projects. And because it’s situated in a government-sanctioned development park, it’s perfect for demonstrating our products to key buyers such as state purchasers.”


Geoff says that what’s different about this New Zealand-China initiative is that Viclink is offering other New Zealand universities and Crown Research Institutes the opportunity to open up offices in the Centre. “As a globally minded capital city university, Victoria is committed to contributing in any way it can—singly or collaboratively—to New Zealand’s own high-value manufacturing sector and to improving the environment in, and wellbeing of, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.”


The idea for the venture arose following the signing of a multi-million-dollar deal between Victoria’s Robinson Research Institute and Chinese company Beijing Milestone Science and Technology Development Co Ltd (Milestone) in July. The deal will see Robinson’s high temperature superconducting (HTS) technology underpin a ground-breaking device that could cut the heavy energy use of Beijing’s subway system by forty percent, and its portable compact magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system developed for use in China’s regional hospitals.


Milestone is one of the principal investors in Weimei, the company Viclink established earlier this year to develop and manufacture the HTS and MRI devices in China and in New Zealand. The HTS sub assesmblies will be manufactured in New Zealand by a combination of Kiwi companies. Weimei will be one of the first enterprises to set up office in the new Centre, while its manufacturing will continue to take place in Liyang (near Shanghai).


This initial collaboration was so successful that Milestone’s Chairman, Mr Mi Wang, was keen to discuss how they could build on the partnership, and the idea for the Innovation Centre was born.


“We see it as a win-win for both countries,” says Geoff.  “What we’re doing at SIP supports the Chinese Government’s commitment to growing its high-value manufacturing sector and encouraging HTS and green technologies. From the University’s point of view, it enables us to get significant investment into the commercialisation of certain projects while retaining or building on activities in New Zealand, and it provides access to the Chinese market.”


For further information on the China-New Zealand Innovation Centre, please contact Geoff Todd on geoff.todd@viclink.co.nz or 04-463 6959.


Photo caption, back, L to R:
Dr Rod Badcock, Principal Engineer, Robinson Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington
Angela Strahl, Consul, New Zealand Consulate in Shanghai
Professor Bob Buckley, Robinson Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington
Dongchi Zhang, Director General, Science and Technology Beureu, Suzhou
Dehua Jiang, Director, Division of Americas and Oceania, Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Science and Technology
Yanwei Zhao, Director, Department of International Cooperation, Jiangsu Provincial Science and Technology

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Victoria University of Wellington
Jiqiang Yu, Suzhou Industrial Park, International Innovation Center
Geoff Todd, Managing Director, Viclink