The “Golden Era” between China and the United Kingdom was announced when Chinese President Xi Jinping made his state visit to the latter in October 2015.
Almost three years on, Britain’s Duke of York, Prince Andrew, describes the current state of cooperation between China and the UK when it comes to start-ups as “burgeoning.”
“I think it’s an early stage – the opportunity we have here is the scale is up into something that is really going to be meaningful,” Prince Andrew told CGTN at Pitch@Palace China.
“The opportunities that we see in terms of Chinese businesses going internationally within our network, and others from outside coming into Chinese market – this is going to move people together and bring them together.”
Pitch@Palace China, in its second year running in Beijing, serves as the qualifying contest for Pitch@Palace, a British business incubation initiative set-up by the Duke of York in 2014.
Having observed the market and helped build a foundation in the last two years, Prince Andrew said he is encouraged by the response the initiative has garnered in China.
“Again some of it comes back to the conversation President Xi and I had in 2015, and that we have continued over the last three years. We are [now] going to expand our operation in China,” Prince Andrew said.
“We’ve concentrated on one area, which is in Beijing, but we see that Shenzhen is a happening place and other parts such as Chengdu are [also] at the forefront of technology, innovation, and science.”
Prince Andrew said Pitch@Palace not only helps entrepreneurs bring their ideas out into the open and seize investments, but it also acts as a platform to get them mentors, advisers, access to supply chains and distribution systems.
Two areas in which China and the UK can further collaborate in the future, according to Prince Andrew, are artificial intelligence and machine learning.
When asked how well these Chinese startups are being accepted globally, be it in terms of funding and finding a partner for growth, Prince Andrew said there is still what he calls a small cultural gap.
Without elaborating on this gap, he added: “We got to break down these cultural gaps between what goes on here and the rest of the world. But let me tell you – none of your businesses in China are unwilling to learn and wants to expand into other parts of the world.”
“I am very encouraged by what I’ve experienced and what I see currently happening in China. And if we can continue to add value to the relationship of China and the UK, and the rest of the world, bringing people to people together so that we create greater understanding – that’s all we’re after.”
Pitch@Palace China 2.0 received 20-thousand applications – the same as the previous year – which exceeded Prince Andrew’s expectations. Forty two were narrowed down, with twelve businesses eventually selected to participate in the finals on Friday.
Entrepreneurs present spanned across different gender and age groups, with businesses ranging from environmental-friendly and healthcare solutions, to robotics and cultural heritage.
A common consensus was: some of these businesses are also eyeing the overseas market.
A 78-year old lady named Zheng Long said she decided to participate in this pitch contest because she is seeking for assistance and cooperation in operations, sales, and marketing – areas which she lacks in.
Her company’s software system is able to process 100-thousand Chinese characters, with the aim of keeping the Chinese culture and heritage alive.
“Just like what the Prince said, if there is no pressure, there is no meaning. I feel the same way. If there is work, there is pressure. Only by being able to contribute to the country, will life have meaning,” Zheng said.