Exporting to China has always been challenging for UK exporters in the Life Science sector. Regulatory barriers and import tariffs are often cited as major hurdles to export but perhaps the number one question raised is “can we protect our IP?”
I have been involved in China for nearly ten years and signed a MOU for cooperation and exchange with the largest medical device trade association in China (CAMDI) six years ago. Given that China is considered by many to a major competitor to UK manufactures why would I do this, particularly as I represent the interests of UK Life Science companies?
The answer is simple. No-one can dispute that China, with its 1.3bn population across 26 provinces, is one of the world’s largest markets but what I have begun to realise over the years is that neither the state, provincial or municipal governments, or indeed the indigenous companies, want to be passive recipients of Western products. They want to grow their own economies and partner with the West for mutual advantage, to fast track technology advancement. To do this they recognise that they need to partner with the West where we excel at research and development.
An alternative market entry strategy…
This is where I believe there is an opportunity for UK Life Science companies. An alternative market entry strategy to selling finished product into China, is to enter into earlier stage partnerships where there is a win-win for both parties. This could be at any stage in the development pipeline from partnerships around jointly developing IP, collaborative R&D, technology licensing, product modification and placement etc. We may have a knowledge and technology advantage in specific areas but no one understands and has access to the Chinese market for life sciences better than the Chinese themselves.
So where do I stand on our ability to protect IP. My experience leads me to believe that there is one thing more important than the legal system in China (and legislation is in place to protect the interests of Western companies) and that is the state, provincial and municipal governments all of which place great importance on integrity of dealings with the West, which is key to their future economic growth.
This brings me to our partnership with UKTI, in running a Northern Powerhouse partner brokerage event in the Jiangsu Province (visiting Nanjing and Changzhou, via Shanghai), one of the strongest economies in China, which also has a very large and buoyant Life Science sector. This event is being held in partnership with the Jiangsu Provincial government and the Nanjing and Changzhou Municipal Governments, and it is in leveraging the long standing relationship between these governments and the the open innovation team at the University of Bradford (which has brokered dozens of UK / China commercial partnerships over the years), that we intend to de-risk market entry into China for UK Life Science companies.
I find the Chinese to be some of the friendliest people in the world, and I find their self-effacing character and humour not too dissimilar from our own. De-risk your market entry into China by joining this Northern Powerhouse “Collabora8” partnering mission to China, commencing on the 20th March 2016.
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