When I think of China, I think big, incomprehensible scale and an unparalleled opportunity for UK businesses to tap into.
To justify my excitable and enthusiastic opening statement, just try and digest these statements below and I challenge you not to be inspired to be part of the innovation boom in Guangdong province.
- The population of Shenzhen has jumped from 30,000 to 11.4million in just 30 years. Whereas London has only just surpassed its population peak from 1939!
- With the proportion of R&D expenditure being 5% of Guangdong’s GDP, the province can boast of a yearly R&D budget greater than the entirety of the Horizon 2020 offer
- Guangdong is the largest consumer market in China, making up 10.6% of the whole of China’s GDP
- Guangdong province has the most internet users in China with over 80 million in 2016
However, this rapid urbanisation and growth has not come without its challenges.
Need for sustainable transport systems
The population boom has gone hand in hand with an urban sprawl. Many workers have to commute long distances but are faced with endless traffic jams each day. In fact, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are 14th and 15th in the global ranking of most congested cities in the world.
For every 100 citizens in Guangzhou, there are 20 cars, and this number continues to grow. Urban citizens require transport that is efficient and not detrimental to their health or the environment. There is a need to develop energy efficient transportation, connecting citizens with the public system whilst still meeting the demand of the densely populated city.
Affordable healthcare in urban areas
Alongside the traffic, urbanisation has drawn attention to the aging population in Chinese cities. 36 years of the one-child policy has left many families with two sets of grandparents and only one grandchild, pensions are small and space in public care homes is dwindling. Now more than ever there is a need for affordable healthcare that is integrated into urban areas. Businesses could address this by developing smart healthcare devices that enable the elderly to continue to live at home and limiting the number of readmissions into hospitals.
Potential to leverage big data to improve public services
The silver lining is that urban growth has also come with a wealth of Big Data, and China is calling for it to be utilised to overcome these challenges. There is no doubt that Big Data can be leveraged to enhance public services.
Already the Environment Monitoring Centre of Guangdong Province is opening its data platform which is serviced by 131 monitoring stations province wide. Their website forecasts air quality and the water environment, with the data being updated in real-time.
Guangdong citizens are hungry for smart solutions
Nonetheless citizens are failing to use this information to adopt a green lifestyle. The UK has had great success in this department, you only have to look at the Open Data initiative spawned from the Glasgow Future City demonstrator. With an ‘Open as default’ approach, Glasgow has allowed innovators to harness data and positively influence the behaviour of urban citizens. Such an approach would be welcomed throughout cities in Guangdong whose consumers are hungry for smart solutions to the degradation of their environment.
London electric buses – UK/Guangdong successful collaboration
UK and Guangdong businesses are already reaping the rewards of working together, one result being pure electric buses on the streets of London!
After becoming the supplier for half of the world’s rechargeable battery market, Shenzhen based company, Build Your Dreams (BYD) turned its eye to electric vehicles. BYD are now working with the UK’s biggest bus manufacturer, Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) to supply Transport of London with 95 electric buses by 2019 – 51 are already in action! This demonstrates how key innovation and collaboration is to tackle air quality and congestion in cities not just in China and the UK but globally.
Live UK-Guangdong urban innovation challenge 2017
Innovate UK supports businesses in accessing these exciting opportunities in Guangdong province through our live Newton Fund call which is tacking urban challenges.
Businesses interested in working on urban innovation but concerned about partnering and IP rights can access further support from:
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