In­no­va­tion honor re­sult of years of work

UN adds China to top 25 list of most in­no­va­tive economies in world; ex­perts not sur­prised

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

China’s in­no­va­tion comes from years of heavy in­vest­ment, so its place­ment in the top 25 most in­no­va­tive economies in the world is taken in stride, ex­perts said.

The United Na­tions’ World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a re­port re­leased Tues­day that China moved up four places from 29th last year be­cause it demon­strated con­sis­tent im­prove­ment in in­no­va­tion.

A di­rec­tor of the or­ga­ni­za­tion said that in en­ter­ing the top 25, China join up­per-in­come coun­tries that have tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated the top slots of the global in­no­va­tion in­dex.

To many, China’s en­trance into the top 25 is a long time com­ing, and var­i­ous sec­tors in China have been lead­ing the way in in­no­va­tion far be­yond what peo­ple out­side of China may give the coun­try credit for.

“It’s the least sur­pris­ing thing that China is an in­no­va­tive coun­try. It’s way be­yond the myth of ‘they just im­i­tate’ — that has not been true for a long, long time,” said Erik Gor­don, a pro­fes­sor of en­trepreneur­ship at the Ross School of Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan.

“That’s al­most a form of ori­en­tal­ism at this point. To me, the sur­pris­ing thing is the UN mea­sure fi­nally got­ten into the top 25,” he said.

Gor­don said that China has been in­no­va­tive in the med­i­cal and busi­ness sec­tors, par­tic­u­larly with med­i­cal de­vices and con­sumer bank­ing, two ar­eas where in­no­va­tions are hav­ing an im­pact on large por­tions of the pop­u­la­tion.

China has been heav­ily in­vest­ing in pro­duc­ing in­no­va­tive med­i­cal de­vices to serve its ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, and es­pe­cially those who live in re­mote ar­eas with poor ac­cess to health­care, he said.

Med­i­cal costs have to be kept low, and China’s in­no­va­tion in the area may even­tu­ally be ex­ported to other coun­tries, such as Africa and even the United States, he said.

“China can plan over a long hori­zon, un­like in the US where ev­ery two years, or four years, or eight years, the Congress changes and (you) can’t get a con­sis­tent any­thing. China can look ahead, and they did,” Gor­don said.

“They said, ‘In or­der to be stable, we have to de­velop well. We have to make peo­ple’s lives bet­ter.’ You would think all politi­cians would think that way, but it was specif­i­cally on the ta­ble,” he added.

Fu Xiaolan, a gov­ern­ing coun­cil mem­ber of the Tech­nol­ogy Bank for the least de­vel­oped coun­tries, a UN es­tab­lish­ment, said that China’s place­ment is driven by the gov­ern­ment’s pur­suit of in­no­va­tion in the last 10 years. It’s also im­por­tant that many Chi­nese stu­dents who study over­seas are now re­turn­ing home to ap­ply their knowl­edge do­mes­ti­cally.

“China has a large pool of in­tel­li­gent, bright peo­ple. China has the man­power. It also has a large mar­ket, and a large do­mes­tic mar­ket pro­vides large ad­van­tages for in­no­va­tors, be­cause they can (get) larger re­turns (on those) in­no­va­tions, and they can scale up their in­no­va­tions in the do­mes­tic mar­ket,” she said.

Ed­ward Tse, founder and CEO of Gao Fend Ad­vi­sory Com­pany, said that China has made “leaps and bounds in in­no­va­tion” to be­come the global epi­cen­ter of busi­ness in­no­va­tion, par­tic­u­larly in tech-driven busi­ness in­no­va­tion.

“Chi­nese en­trepreneurs are very, very good in busi­ness model in­no­va­tion. Look at [car-hail­ing app] Didi Chux­ing. Uber China es­sen­tially said, ‘You guys are so good that we have to give up China for you,’ ” he said, re­fer­ring to the re­cent an­nounce­ment that US car-hail­ing ser­vice Uber agreed to sell its China op­er­a­tions to Didi af­ter the Amer­i­can com­pany lost nearly $2 bil­lion try­ing to es­tab­lish a foothold in China.

“Another ex­am­ple is WeChat. Every­body in China is on WeChat. It’s an in­no­va­tion be­cause it’s so mul­ti­func­tional that it’s be­come the core of a lifestyle for so many peo­ple,” Tse said.

Puneet Man­chanda, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor at the Ross School of Busi­ness, also men­tioned WeChat as an ex­am­ple, and said that the Chi­nese tech land­scape has ex­pe­ri­enced the most no­table rise in in­no­va­tion over the last decade.

“I would say the last 10 years, in the age of in­no­va­tion, where Chi­nese com­pa­nies are pro­duc­ing stuff that West­ern com­pa­nies have not thought of.

“So def­i­nitely, the rate is ac­cel­er­at­ing, and I think they’ll keep get­ting bet­ter,” he said.

It’s the least sur­pris­ing thing that China is an in­no­va­tive coun­try. It’s way be­yond the myth of ‘they just im­i­tate.’ ” Erik Gor­don, Univer­sity of MIchi­gan en­trepreneur­ship pro­fes­sor

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