Space-tech out­fit on shop­ping spree

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS -

KuangChi Science Ltd, the Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany hop­ing to send tourists into space and de­velop fly­ing jet-packs, could soon go on a $600 mil­lion in­vest­ment spurt.

KuangChi, whose other projects in­clude the Wear­able Spir­i­tual Ar­mour ex­oskele­ton, launched a $300 mil­lion fund in May to back star­tups work­ing on cut­ting-edge com­put­ing, space-far­ing tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The fund’s out­lay may dou­ble be­cause of the plethora of suit­able com­pa­nies that have since con­tacted the Hong Kong-listed com­pany, Founder and Chair­man Liu Ruopeng told Bloomberg News.

Liu’s also hop­ing to de­velop tech­nol­ogy to de­ci­pher hu­man emo­tions. Last week, it an­nounced a $3 mil­lion in­vest­ment in Is­rael’s Beyond Ver­bal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Ltd, which spe­cial­izes in voice an­a­lyt­ics soft­ware, part of an over­all $50 mil­lion doled out so far. The com­pany re­lies on Chi­nese govern­ment grants to bankroll its re­search into moon­shots, as well as bank lines of credit, he said.

“It re­ally de­pends on how many com­pa­nies and how much tech­nol­ogy is ac­tu­ally within our scope, and it’s also re­liant on how many strate­gic part­ners work to­gether with us,” said Liu, a Duke Univer­sity grad­u­ate who was part of the team that worked on the fea­si­bil­ity of light-bend­ing in­vis­i­bil­ity cloaks.

Six-year-old KuangChi has a lot on its plate. De­spite hav­ing few prod­ucts on the mar­ket, Liu is intent on fund­ing re­search into ev­ery­thing from space-far­ing cap­sules to the Martin Jet­pack, a pro­to­type of which it ac­quired from a New Zealand re­searcher last year.

Later this year, it in­tends to send mice and tur­tles into near-space — be­tween 20 to 100 kilo­me­ters above sea level —via a cap­sule hooked up to bal­loons. If that works, KuangChi can be­gin ex­plor­ing send­ing hu­mans aloft. It’s even delv­ing into fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment: Liu plans to in­vest 10 bil­lion yuan ($1.5 bil­lion) on a theme park that will al­low vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence life in the fu­ture and outer space, he told China Daily in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view.

The com­pany has come un­der fire in lo­cal me­dia for hav­ing plenty of ideas but few avail­able prod­ucts. Liu, in turn, says his com­pany is fo­cused on com­mer­cial­iz­ing prod­ucts as quickly as pos­si­ble. Its main prod­uct is the Cloud, a net­work of bal­loons that pro­vides in­ter­net ac­cess and data anal­y­sis much like Google’s Project Loon, or surveil­lance for govern­ment agen­cies. And the jet­pack is set for com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions by 2017, he said.

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