Swissnex China is an initiative of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), managed in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs. Working together with the Science, Education, and Technology Section in the Embassy of Switzerland in China and regional consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou, the initiative connects Switzerland and China in science, education, and innovation.
How would you describe the relationship between China and Switzerland?
China is the most important economic partner of Switzerland in Asia and has become the most popular destination for Swiss investors. In the framework of the mission of swissnex, China plays a crucial role in cooperation in education and research. The bilateral scientific cooperation programme has supported almost 300 projects, and research organizations are reaching out more frequently to collaborate with each other – with the signing of an extensive exchange agreement between University of Zurich and Shanghai Jiao Tong University on September 7, 2018, at swissnex China being one of the latest examples.
What has inspired you to continue mending this relationship?
With swissnex China being the Science Consulate of Switzerland in China, we build bridges by connecting Switzerland and China in education, research and innovation. We have been doing it for over a decade and will continue to create sustainable added value for our partners. For the Swiss and the Chinese side, this could mean open up more and more to the perspectives of the other side and to understand how we can learn from each other in the mentioned areas.
What have been some of the most important achievements throughout the ten years?
swissnex China has been involved in numerous high-profile projects in the last decade. These include; the launch of Sino Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation Program (SSSTC) in 2008, the Science Suisse exhibition in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2009, and participation in the Swiss Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the largest world exhibition in history.
Regarding innovation and entrepreneurship, each year swissnex China together with venturelab creates the opportunity for ten tech entrepreneurs come to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and the World Economic Forum (Tianjin) with the majority of them going home with contracts, investments proposals or many follow up opportunities.
We also foster close collaboration between Swiss and Chinese universities while promoting the excellence of Swiss higher education with well-recognized, top-ranked universities. Since its inauguration, swissnex China has initiated or facilitated 211 agreements and collaborations between Swiss and Chinese higher education institutions.
What would you change?
One point could be to further boost the visibility of swissnex China in Switzerland so that people with great ideas on collaborations between the two countries know there is an institution that could support them.
The startup scene has been steadily growing, and your engagement has equally continued to grow: How has the scene developed over the years and what trends do you see in the future?
Recently at the World Economic Forum: Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, the Chinese government has announced that strict IPR will be launched to improve the IP status in China to encourage innovation. To stimulate innovation, China wants to unlock the ability to innovate and make it easier for higher research and education institutions to innovate and get businesses to increase R&D spending. These policies will open new doors for Swiss startups in China.
Have you noticed any obstacles in the scene?
For Swiss start-ups entry to the Chinese market is not always easy since they need to consider a great deal about different regulations in China compared to Switzerland, for example regarding IP and trademark, but becoming established a legal entity in China usually can also be tricky.
Based on your ten years of experience: How can entrepreneurs overcome them?
Of course, collecting knowledge about the differences in regulations between Switzerland and China is crucial. Secondly, sometimes it is easier to first partner up with local companies or distributors to establish a network.
How many Swiss startups are currently established in China and vice versa, thanks to swissnex China?
swissnex China has prepared 117 Swiss startups for their first steps in China, by way of discovering the market, meeting professional coaches and connecting with local experts. Twenty-four of these startups are currently operating in China.
Vice versa, we give recommendations to Chinese startups to get in touch with Swiss universities or investment promoters.
What key learnings would you pass on to aspiring founders and supporters of the startup scene?
Aspiring founders and supporters of the startup scene should know that there is great potential in China, innovation is key and there is a great deal of governmental support, similar to Switzerland. In both countries, the opportunities are there, but it needs the effort to make the most out of it.
Felix Moesner will represent swissnex China at an event in Lausanne on 28 September. Representatives of several other swissnex offices will join and discuss about global opportunities for Swiss start-ups.