The 5th SME China Forum

The 5th SME China Forum

The 5th SME China Forum

Over 250 delegates attended the 5th SME China Forum on 26th September 2017 at Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, organised by the China-Britain Business Council.

As the leading event for UK SMEs looking to expand their business in the China, more than 40 expert speakers, including many companies from the South West, shared they insights and know-how across a range of issues, including China market-entry strategy, opportunities in the Chinese consumer market, investment partnership in innovation and technology, Wechat marketing, as well as IP protection. The Forum also played host to Intellectual Property Innovation & Entrepreneurship Contest, which saw UK companies pitching their ideas to Chinese tech-scouting companies.

Opening Plenary
Opening the Forum, CBBC Chief Executive Matthew Rous pointed out some challenges in the Chinese market - ‘you’ll read articles that say China is booming, others that say hard landings are imminent. Articles that say China is a great innovator, leapfrogging many traditional channels, but that it is also a serious IP threat.’ However, with the right support from CBBC, he reassured delegates, UK companies should feel confident to enter and grow in the Chinese market.

Minister Counsellor Jin Xu, Commercial Section of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China underlined the growing importance of the Chinese market and of Chinese customers in the global economy. ‘China is now the largest trading exporter and importer in the world, and the spending power of Chinese tourists is the highest around the world,’ he said.

Tim Bowles, Regional Mayor, West of England Combined Authority echoed the importance of the Chinese market saying ‘there are enormous opportunities in China.’ The mayor believed that the strong SME base and advances in technology and innovation in the region, driven by world-class universities, were a vital foundation for enhancing international trade in the South West.


Developing China Market-Entry Strategies
As China’s economy matures and moves towards the ‘new normal’, a slower pace of more sustainable growth, there are new opportunities opening up for British companies across different sectors. In this session, the head of DIT China and several SMEs shared their China experience and top-tips for success.

Richard Burn, Director-General of Department for International Trade, China, laid out the many difficulties that UK SMEs were facing in entering China – the complicated regulatory requirements, the ever-changing product standards, IP protection issues and customs clearance. His advice to British SMEs was to ‘do the homework and carefully identify the potential opportunities before getting on the plane,’ and also to ‘get advice and assistance from the DIT team, CBBC and trade organisations when starting to develop the China market.’

Ian Hunter, of WCBS, a software company specialising in school data management, advised UK SMEs to ‘understand strategies and policies of China, such as the 5-year plan’, as fitting in with the macro-policies was a critical element to their success in China.

Alex Phillips from LNP China, a consultancy that helps UK companies to set up in China, brought out another main China challenges – ‘retaining staff in China is difficult’. He suggested that ‘strucutred and competitive salary rises are a key for retaining staff. Also, doing things in a local way, such as celebrating Chinese festivals, is helpful.’

Simon Craddock, from Onsight Ltd, a film and TV programme production company, showed the need for patience ‘eight trips in a couple of years but no business at all.’ His hard work was finally paid off in 2017 when they secured five China projects this year. Making friends was his key to success. ‘We did spend a lot of time building connections and it has bought us business eventually,’ he shared.

UK baby food brand, Ella’s Kitchen, achieved 40% growth in China last year. Tom Bodeker, advised UK SMEs to seek help from China experts: ‘CBBC and DIT were the experts that had given us valuable advice. On top of that, our distribution partner in China helped us to achieve strategic distribution’.’



China’s Appetite for New Consumer Experiences, Entertainment and Content

As China looks to transform itself into a modern consumer economy and global manufacturing power, innovation and technology will be vital to its future prosperity. Against this backdrop, Chinese companies and investors are increasingly looking to acquire technology assets from overseas, or to collaborate directly with foreign partners. This session examined different issues and challenges for technology partnerships between the UK and China.

The session started by shedding light on the areas that had driven UK-China technology cooperation. Kristina Rayko, of Global Tech IP, a tech support service provider, highlighted that ‘fintech and medtech are in great demand, but everything digital is popular at this moment.’

Fernando Valda, of Nord Engine Capital, a China-backed tech venture capital firm, complemented Kristina’s point saying ‘the key technology areas that mentioned in China’s 5-year plan - artificial intelligence, big data, fintech, medical technology and clean technology are all  areas where the UK and China can cooperate.’

Mark Collin, of ThoughtWorks Ventures, a technology solutions company suggested that ‘China has passed that copycat stage and now has become a creator’. He was confident about China’s innovation potential because of the efficiency and capacity that the country could provide. ‘Factories in Shenzhen can turn a design into a workable product in just a few weeks, which is much faster factories here in the UK,’ he said.

Tom Minor, of EZ Education, an education start-up that specialised in young learners, explained the advantages of investment partnership with a Chinese partner. ‘We do learn from our Chinese partner’s expertise in content creation and their understanding of how Chinese children learn,’ Tom said.

Paul Hardman, of Gregg Latchams Solicitors, a law firm that helps Chinese investors invest in the UK, talked about how ‘the pace in China has been changed’. To make UK companies an attractive asset to Chinese investors, he suggested that ‘conversation has to happen very quick, and engaging the Chinese investors is very important.’

Closing Remarks
John Rubidge, Head of Innovation in Service of Business West concluded the morning sessions by expressing the organisation’s dedication in helping companies in the South West to do business with China. ‘We have 35 staff and a specify programme – ‘Extend Your Global Reach’ - to help SMEs in the region to export to China,’ John said.



WeChat Marketing & Ecommerce Workshop

With 700 million Internet users and over 300 million online shoppers, there has never been a better time to reach Chinese shoppers and businesses via online channels. In this workshop, the two speakers shared how to use WeChat, China’s dominant ‘super-app’, as a cross-border E-Commerce channel and Santander’s proposition for UK retailers.

Adam Knight from Tong Digital gave a practical how-to guide on WeChat marketing. Adam began the presentation by introducing the five steps to selling on WeChat, including forming a strategy, setting up an official WeChat store, marketing, delivering customer services and ensuring fulfilling shopping experience, followed by a detailed budget analysis for doing marketing through WeChat.
Dennis Lin from Santander started his presentation by giving an overview of Chinese E-commerce environment. He then introduced Santander’s partnership with and the service package, including E-commerce service, intellectual property protection and logistics partners, that Santander could offer to help UK SMEs enter China.



Online IP Protection Workshop

The high incidence of counterfeit and IP-infringing products can cause safety issues for the public, compromising consumer confidence. Companies providing digital solutions and services in China also face significant challenges when looking to protect their core IP. In this workshop, three leading IP practitioners shared the best practice on how SMEs can best protect their IP assets when selling into the China market.

Keith Gymer, from Stratagem IPM Ltd brought us a comprehensive introduction on the different types of intellectual property in China, allowing the audience to acquire a clear picture of China’s IP framework.

Daniel Dougherty from Alibaba Group, one of the world’s largest E-commerce companies, presented Alibaba’s IP protection effort. This included setting up an online platform, called  ‘IPP’, for rights holders to register and file takedown requests across all of Alibaba’s marketplaces, and Alibaba’s proactive interception and delisting of IP-infringing products.

Dilpreet Kaur from INCOPRO, an online IP monitoring agency, described online IP protection in China as ‘pretty complex’. She outlined that proper registration of IP, proactive feedback to E-commerce platforms and continuing monitoring were the keys to online IP protection in China. 



Extend your global Reach Sessions
The Forum was held in Bristol this year to support Extend Your Global Reach (EYGR), a new and innovative package of support that is assisting SMEs from the South West to enter new, high growth export markets. Led by Jonny Smith, Market Specialist – China, Department for International Trade (Business West), two sessions were held to support local companies to participate in this programme.
The first, Manufacturing in China, provided insight into opportunities in China’s manufacturing sector, guidance on how to realise them and advice from companies that have been there and done it. CBBC’s James Westwood introduced the overarching policies that are driving China’s next steps: The Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025. Understanding these policies will help you identify where the opportunities are for your business.
Bruce Clothier from Fraser Anti-Static Techniques is focused on setting and delivering the company’s business plans. He sees the Chinese market as an opportunity to maintain Fraser’s tremendous recent growth.
‘Being British is an advantage in terms of quality and having the best products’ said Ian Harris of West Technology Systems Limited for whom China now accounts for 75% of their export market. All at the session agreed that quality control is vital to manufacturing in China.
The second of the EYGR sessions, Healthy China, Healthy Profits, offered insight into opportunities in China’s healthcare and life sciences sector. ‘When the Chinese government wants to do something, it generally gets done’ was CBBC advisor Jamie Shaw’s view on whether China’s ambitious plans to invest RMB6.6 trillion by 2020 in healthcare will become a reality.
An excellent discussion followed with Gemma Gerzon, Healthcare UK, Department for International Trade, Pete Read, Global Growth Markets Ltd and Dr Jameel Zayed, Sinan Compass Ltd.
The speakers covered topics from the approval process, the need for government support, specific sectors where UK companies can do well such as training and operational management. After the basic necessities, healthcare is the number one concern for Chinese people these days, so the market is there but UK companies must be patient and willing to experiment with new business models.


Intellectual Property Innovation & Entrepreneurship Contest

The SME China Forum played host to the UK round of the Intellectual Property Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition (IPIEC).
10 companies ranging from healthcare start-ups to data solutions firms presented their innovative ideas on stage. After a round of presentations, the judging panel selected the top three UK finalists. They were:

  • Modo System - a cloud solution provider that helps people to manage digital files on mobile more conveniently and efficiently
  • That Figures – a database solution that enables hospitals and clinics to maximise efficiency and capacity
  • ROVAR - a subsea lifting and handling system that can  remotely operate subsea forklift for heavy load handling

These three finalists of this UK round now have the opportunity to travel to Guangzhou for the semi-finals & finals, and will compete for funding from tech scouting companies and cash prizes of up to USD100,000.


Throughout the day, service providers were also on hand to offer 1-1 advice on a wide range of market entry and expansion issues. CBBC looks forward to continuing the SME Forum next year.

In the last four years, successful events have been held in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow. Be sure to lobby your local CBBC colleague to have us hold the event in your area!

CBBC would like to thank the supporters of the SME China Forum: Business West, Santander Corporate & Commercial Bank, WTOIP Global, Samarkand Global, Incopro Ltd , LNP China, Stratagem IPM Ltd, Tong Digital