China business: Launch pad for Kiwi firms

Innohub will work to help high-growth companies become ‘China ready’.
InnoHub's founder and chief executive, Hongbo Xu, gained a Master of Engineering degree from Auckland University.
InnoHub's founder and chief executive, Hongbo Xu, gained a Master of Engineering degree from Auckland University.

Export-oriented businesses in New Zealand will soon be able to source expert mentoring and advice on how to be ready for the big and complex Chinese market.

Guangzhou Municipal Government's Science and Technology Innovation Commission will sign a memorandum of understanding at the Tripartite Economic Summit to establish the not-for-profit New Zealand China Innovation Centre, based in Auckland.

The founding sponsor of the centre is Chinese incubator InnoHub, which established an office in Auckland's innovation precinct GridAKL at the start of the year. Other sponsors will be named at the summit on May 16 and 17.

Guangzhou-based InnoHub is one of China's leading start-up accelerator networks and its presence in Auckland resulted from the signing of the Tripartite Economic Alliance. Innohub, with offices in eight Chinese cities, Singapore and Sydney, wants to foster innovation and entrepreneurship through collaboration, partnership and an active community of online members.

InnoHub's founder and chief executive Hongbo Xu, who gained a Master of Engineering degree from Auckland University, will be back in the city to witness the signing at the summit.

The centre will build a network of Chinese business communities throughout New Zealand.
Hongbo Xu's brother, Xiaohui Xu

His brother Xiaohui Xu, also a Master's graduate in engineering from Auckland University, is leading InnoHub's New Zealand operation out of GridAKL. He says the centre will work with sponsors and partners to help high-growth New Zealand companies become 'China ready' through acceleration programmes and China business connection and investment services.

"The companies will get to know Chinese policy, the local legal requirements, potential customers before they actually leave for China — this advice will save them a lot of time," says Xiaohui.

"The centre will review the companies' technology and indicate whether there is an opportunity for it in China — or on the other hand it may suggest potential new market applications for the technology that hadn't been thought of."

He says the centre will build a network of Chinese business communities throughout New Zealand, and provide a platform for companies to quickly connect with opportunities in China.

InnoHub will also help provide facilities and services (launch pad) for New Zealand companies wanting to set up operations in major Chinese cities, starting with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan.

Xiaohui says the Chinese market regards New Zealand as having strengths and capability in the agritech, cleantech, foodtech, healthtech, virtual reality, robotics, education and creative sectors.

"InnoHub is impressed by some of the start-ups and technologies they've seen in New Zealand — the technologies are quite advanced and niche. Because New Zealand is a small market we can help the start-ups think globally," says Xiaohui, who worked for Guangzhou Software Alliance before joining InnoHub.

"In China InnoHub has 40 technical people who are some of the best programmers in China, and if we believe a New Zealand company has potential in China we can inject technical resources to help it develop a prototype more quickly."

InnoHub is also planning to establish an academy and investment fund in New Zealand.
The InnoHub Academy will be a one-day event in New Zealand later this year where local entrepreneurs and companies will hear leading Chinese speakers talking about "doing business in China". The academy, which also operates in China and Singapore, creates an online social network for participants to exchange ideas and other information.

Xiaohui says InnoHub is completing due diligence on two early-stage companies operating in the agritech/cleantech/biotech and medical devices sectors, and they could be the first investments by the new fund.

- NZ Herald

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