https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2016/04/22/learnings-and-recommendations-from-connected-cities-mission-to-asean/

Learnings and recommendations from Connected Cities Mission to ASEAN

We recently took 10 UK firms to Malaysia and Singapore, with UKTI, on an entrepreneur Connected Cities mission to help them find partners in the region. Here are their learnings and recommendations from the mission.

Bronze Software Labs, Richard Howells

Richard Howells of Bronze Software Labs talks to potential partner in Singapore
Richard Howells of Bronze Software Labs talks to potential partner in Singapore

Reasons for going on the mission

  • Raise the profile and awareness of the work Bronze Labs and our IoT, Smart Cities technologies in South East Asia and the UK
  • Understand what exactly was happening with technologies in the South East Asia smart cities marketplace
  • Gain practical experience of the market landscape to trade within South East Asia
  • Make genuine useful contacts within the smart cities arena potentially leading to technology partnerships within the region

Key learnings & recommendations

  • If you have a technical solution be prepared to describe it very simply
  • Have a clear 'layered' story ready. So following your 'one sentence', provide another layer of detail if they enquire.
  • Don't under-estimate how business commitments back home and upon returning to UK can impact on your ability to follow up on your actions abroad.
  • Become comfortable talking to press and giving impromptu presentations where you may or may not be recorded.
  • Make the most of your time with the other businesses on your mission. Some of the most valuable information we obtained was during informal time chatting with other businesses.

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Design for Social Change, Priya Prakash

Priya Prakash, Design 4 Social Change talking to potential partner in Jahor, Malaysia
Priya Prakash, Design 4 Social Change talking to potential partner in Jahor, Malaysia

Reasons for going on the mission

The mission provided us with an invaluable opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the market, meet with governmental decision makers - who are setting the priorities for smart cities development in their nations and potential clients for our services.

The smart city and urban innovation market-space is complex to navigate, more so overseas. Being part of a UKTI/Innovate UK trade mission gives us credibility and instant access to decision -makers which is almost impossible to achieve as an individual company going into a new international market.

Key learnings & recommendations

  • Listening to local city authorities, technology service providers and governments, and understanding the challenges they face in running and developing increasingly complex, fast growing cities was eye-opening
  • What was common to all the projects we saw during the mission was the need to engage with citizens – either in order to gain insight into people's needs, or in order to validate the effectiveness of the solutions developed
  • A month since the trade mission, doors continue to open for us across Government and business in the region

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Preliminal, Dean Gifford

Dean Gifford of Preliminal at BASH incubator, Singapore
Dean Gifford of Preliminal at BASH incubator, Singapore

Reasons for going on the mission

At a time where we're refining our market and the available opportunities the Connected Cities Mission was a powerful research experience.

There is no such thing as too much research and the Trade Mission provided us an excellent opportunity to engage with potential clients in a market we will soon be supporting.

For all the ease of reading reports and talking to potential customers on Skype there simply is no replacement for one-to-one discussion, especially in Asia where it is so highly regarded.

Key learnings & recommendations

  • Additional pre-planning to co-ordinate meetings with local companies in tandem with the mission plan would provide serious benefits
  • We generated several key contacts in the region from one to one pitch meetings who we're directly following up with for trial of our platform as well as with a local partner that would both use and recommend us

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Demand Logic, Sonny Masero

Sonny Masero of Demand Logic travelling from Cyberjaya to Putrajaya
Sonny Masero of Demand Logic travelling from Cyberjaya to Putrajaya

Reasons for going on the mission

Our goal of taking part in the mission was to develop a partnership with VADS Lyfe, a smart city subsidiary of Telekom Malaysia, so that we could establish our first pilot customers in this fast-growing region and to evaluate the ASEAN market for Demand Logic's commercial building IOT service.

If there was an opportunity to find new customers in the region, and there was, then we would look to secure new business deals in the region.

Key learnings & recommendations

  • We gained access to organisations, which we would not have been able to get as a small business entering into the region independently.
  • We were also mentioned as the "Fitbit for buildings" live on air on Channel News Asia, which reaches billions of people in the region.
  • Be prepared to take the initiative and organise additional meetings around the core activities otherwise the opportunities presented are much more speculative.

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Carbon Trust, Tim Pryce

Tim Pryce of Carbon Trust talking to potential partners in Cyberjaya, Malaysia
Tim Pryce of Carbon Trust talking to potential partners in Cyberjaya, Malaysia

Reasons for going on the mission

We think there is huge potential to export 15 years of our world-leading low carbon strategy, technology and carbon certification experience around the world and South East Asia is a fast growing part of the world, and the pace of change in their cities is incredible.

Key learnings & recommendations

  • Research the other companies on the mission before you go
  • Take ten times as many business cards as you think you might need!
  • Try and shape the mission to meet partners, customers AND officials
  • You may well need partners on the ground to actually deliver projects

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Ordnance Survey International, Carsten Rönsdorf

Visiting Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore - Carsten Rönsdorf in forefront
Visiting Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore - Carsten Rönsdorf in forefront

Reasons for going on the mission

  • leverage UKTI’s network of contacts in the region
  • build stronger relationships with our target customers
  • get insights into the start-up environment in Singapore
  • evaluate partnership opportunities with the participating UK companies

Key learnings & recommendations

We have used the information and contacts we gained from the mission as one of the cornerstones for our regional business strategy in South-East Asia.

One recommendation to future attendees would be to make use of all networking opportunities and build a rich picture of the wider market by talking to people, even if they are not strictly a target for your business.

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Telensa, Chris Johnston

Connected cities mission at Jahor Double Tree hotel, Malaysia
Connected cities mission at Jahor Double Tree hotel, Malaysia

Reasons for going on the mission

  • Market research into region-specific requirements and opportunities
  • To engage with local stakeholders and potential partners
  • To meet with customers running initial pilot projects with us

Key learnings & recommendations

  • There were region-specific sensor applications we discussed such as ultra-local real-time rainfall measurement and storm drain monitoring.
  • How to justify the expense of expanding smart city pilots beyond a few downtown streets.
  • How to develop a foundation business case to allow innovative sensor applications to experiment and flourish.

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Multipass, Alexander Peschkoff

Alexander Peschkoff of Multipass UK Ltd pitching to investors at British High Commission, Singapore
Alexander Peschkoff of Multipass UK Ltd pitching to investors at British High Commission, Singapore

Reasons for going on the mission

  • Face-to-face meetings are important for establishing local relationships.
  • Local presence could be crucial for the success in that region - a full hands-on office rather than just an administration representative.
  • An early engagement helps to establish the initial rapport, which can be cultivated into a long-term relationship.

Key learnings & recommendations

  • There was a good follow-up on the part of UKTI, which led to some new opportunities.

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