Pathfinders transform lives but state has key role
As entrepreneurial enthusiasm rises across the mainland, ambitious innovators seek to combine their expertise with the characteristics and demand of their home cities in order to stand out in the crowd.
Shenzhen, cited as one of the most open and innovative cities on the mainland, is fertile ground for such tailor-made entrepreneurship, going by the number of startups founded on technological innovations that have taken root.
Among these trailblazers is Shenzhen Orbbec Co Ltd. Founded two years ago by Huang Yuanhao, the company specializes in 3-D sensing and artificial intelligence — technologies that enable machines to look at and perceive the world like humans.
With a 3-D sensor, robots, for example, would be able to identify obstacles lying a few meters away and avoid them. Online fitting will become viable, as a 3-D sensorinstalled device will be able to obtain specific data on a shopper’s measurements and match suitable clothes for them.
“With a sound industry chain, I can get all I need quickly and easily in Shenzhen,” said Huang, explaining why the 36-year-old chose Shenzhen as the base for his business. “Government support is also comprehensive and considerate (in this city).”
Since launching mass production of its 3-D sensor three months ago, Orbbec has already received orders worth of more than 100 million yuan ($15.3 million), Huang said.
But 3-D sensing is only one of the high-tech fields Shenzhen entrepreneurs are exploring. Many other advanced technologies and products are also emerging in the city, like DJI Technology Co’s drones, Royole Corp’s full-color flexible display of 0.01 millimeter with which mobile phones can be made extremely thin and rolled into a pen shape, and Kuang-Chi Science Ltd’s Martin Jetpack, which is able to fly with a passenger.
According to official statistics, the city had 6,753 high-tech firms as of July 2015, making up more than half of those in all of Guangdong. Among them, 4,742 are of national level.
Investment in research and development accounted for 4.02 percent of Shenzhen’s total GDP (gross domestic product) in 2014, a higher ratio than even most countries worldwide, and the city aims to further raise its share to 4.25 percent by 2020.
Following Premier Li Keqiang’s 2014 call to the people to create new things and start self-owned businesses, innovation and entrepreneurship have become the leading buzzwords on the mainland.
The e nv i r o n m e n t
Determined to solve the longstanding difficulty for mainland patients in getting medical treatment in big cities, 37-year-old medical practitioner Zhang Ji decided to once again take the entrepreneurial route despite failing in his first venture.
“It was a really tough process,” recalled Zhang, now president of Shenzhen PRO-HIFU Medical Tech Co Ltd (PRO-HIFU), a high-tech enterprise specializing in developing large ultrasonic medical equipment.
“My company share was diluted again and again as the number of investors grew. I was not able to pay salaries to my employees. I sold all my apartments, save just one for living in myself.”
Zhang returned to foreign firms, where he had worked for years, to make financial preparations for his second foray into entrepreneurship.
PRO-HIFU has now developed an ultrasonic non-invasive hysteromyoma treatment system, which is able to effectively treat the disease, which involves uterine tumors, effectively while reducing patients’ pain or, in Zhang’s words, enabling them to “live a life of dignity.”
“Our technology is two or three years ahead of international levels,” Zhang claimed. “We hope our country could become the standard maker in this field.”
Zhang said industry-level competition between two countries is not limited to that between market players, but also that between their industry chains, which not only includes research and development, production and sales, but also government supervision.
“How effective and controllable government supervision is plays an essential role in deciding how industry will develop,” said the Shenzhenbased entrepreneur.
Getting medical treatment
at hospitals in big cities has long been a problem for patients. Due to the lack of prominent doctors and underdeveloped hospital services in towns and villages, many tend to come to big cities to seek medical treatment, increasing pressure on hospital facilities. High medical costs are also a concern.
Zhang said his primary objective is to see his ultrasonic non-invasive treatment product become high-end medical equipment that all hospitals can afford and make high-tech treatment available to all hysteromyoma patients.
Shenzhen has been taking measures to attract more entrepreneurs by expanding both the scale and value of subsidies earmarked for them.
Individual entrepreneurs, including returnees, graduates, university and college students, veterans, unemployed and disabled people, can apply for secured loans of up to 200,000 yuan ($30,689) per person, and receive preferential office rental and social security terms.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Hong Kong is also stepping up efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his 2016 Policy Address that the SAR government will set aside HK$2 billion to set up an Innovation and Technology Venture Fund for coinvesting with private venture capital funds on a matching basis.
“Innovation and technological capabilities are key indicators of the level of social and economic development,” Leung said in his Jan 13 address. “Innovation and technology not only create new momentum for economic growth, they also provide us with a more convenient, comfortable and secure way of living.”
The SAR will also build a science park near the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border to facilitate local startups’ access to the mainland market.
PRO-HIFU has developed an ultrasonic non-invasive hysteromyoma treatment system, which is able to effectively treat uterine tumors while reducing patients’ pain or enabling them to “live a life of dignity.”