Some of the UK's leading players in the field of green technology are taking part in an ambitious trade mission to China as the world's second largest economy strives to render its gargantuan manufacturing sector more environmentally friendly.
A total of 13 companies and five academic groups are participating in the trade mission, which has been organized by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – the UK government’s “innovation agency.”
The participating companies encompass a broad variety of technological areas and include biotech company Ingenza, industrial microwave firm E2V, and ceramic battery systems company Ionotech.
The mission hopes to scour the Chinese market for potential clients, as well as partners who will be willing to engage in collaborative research into manufacturing methods which are more sustainable and have a less adverse impact on the environment.
A key goal of the mission will be locating Chinese firms who are willing to participate in joint research projects with their British counterparts as part of a funding competition organized by the TSB to foster technological collaboration between the two countries.
Merlin Goldman, the organisation’s lead technologist for manufacturing, said the trade mission was not just about bringing British innovation to the Chinese market, it was also about achieving further development and innovation by collaborating with Chinese partners.
He noted the eagerness of parties on the Chinese side to improve the environmental friendliness of their manufacturing processes, and the key opportunities that this provides to experienced British technology and engineering firms.
The British delegation remains acutely aware, however, of the perils involved in pursuing technological collaboration with Chinese companies, given the long-standing propensity of local parties to use the intellectual property they’ve obtained from foreign partners to rapidly transform themselves into fierce market adversaries.
“There’s always this line where if we take things across [to China] and they implement them then it leaves us behind with no long-term gain,” said Simon Rushworth, leader of the trade mission.
Rushworth nonetheless believes these risks can be obviated via the appropriate legal precautions, providing British firms with massive opportunities in the Chinese market while also safeguarding proprietary technology.
“By licensing technology and also by developing it so that we become part of the supply chain into the Chinese manufacturing market…there is a lot of benefit for small companies to access this huge market,” he said.