​Australia sends startups to China to build innovation network

Four Australian startups are visiting Chengdu in Western China this week in a bid to create an exchange network focused on innovation.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has facilitated the visit of four local startups to Chengdu, China aiming to build a trade and innovation exchange between both countries.

The initiative, Chengdu Innovate, is a recipient of an Australia-China Council grant. Overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australia-China Council is the Australian government's advisory and funding body dedicated to strengthening culture, education, business, and people-to-people relations between Australia and China.

Chengdu Innovate is jointly managed by the technology transfer arm of the University of New South Wales, UNSW Innovations, and China Ambition, a business consultancy outfit that helps Australian firms engage with the Chinese market.

China Ambition CEO Melissa Ran, who was born in Chengdu, said increasing disposable income, a desire for high-quality products, and the number of multinational firms establishing operations in the city would mean opportunities for Australian businesses.

"Chengdu Innovate is just the first step in introducing Australian entrepreneurs to the Chengdu market. I look forward to much more collaboration to come in the future," Ran said.

The startups visiting Chengdu are: Technology lifestyle company aiming to engage 8-12 year-olds in outside activities to address digital addiction and obesity, Elanation; CancerAid, creators of a smartphone app for cancer patients and their caregivers; dynamic E-ink keyboard creators, SonderDesign; and learning tool startup, Language Your Way.

In a bid to strengthen ties with China, the federal government announced six new Joint Research Centres in April to address challenges both countries face in the marine science, food and agribusiness, and mining equipment technology and services sectors.

At a cost of AU$5.95 million, the six virtual centres will be funded for three years under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund, which supports strategic science, technology, and innovation collaboration considered of mutual benefit to both countries.

The federal government chose China to host one of its five startup landing pads, with former Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne saying in February that Shanghai was being positioned by the Chinese government as a global centre for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative is aimed at helping Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market in overseas locations, with sites set up in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Berlin, and Singapore.

The federal government also announced this week it would be injecting AU$10 million into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)-led Scientist and Mathematicians in Schools program.

The program links practising scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and IT professionals with classroom teachers and their students, and as of June 30, 2016, there were 1972 active partnerships with teachers involved from 1,300 schools across the country.

Both the Scientist and Mathematicians in Schools program and the landing pad initiative fall under the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which was unveiled in December.

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