From Copycat to the World’s Innovation Engine

It was not until a few years when China was still widely perceived as a copycat in the rest of the world. Today, foreign entrepreneurs and managers looking for inspiration are traveling to Shanghai, Shenzhen or Hangzhou instead of Silicon Valley. Our Seminar "China: The Coming Innovation Superpower?" helps you to understand this change.

Within just 10 years, China’s digital economy grew from almost nothing to the largest e- commerce market in the world. The country has over 100 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants. At the same time, there are huge inefficiencies in many traditional industries. Together with the emergence of the smartphone, this created the ideal fertile ground for the development of new digital business models - in particular in the fields mobile payments, urban mobility and retail.

With massive government support, China also wants to take the world lead in fields such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), New Energy Vehicles (NEVs), autonomous driving and robots.

Thank you once again for your helpful openness and the sharpened view. Your lecture was the highlight of the week for some of our participants.

Dr. Léa Steinacker
Co-Founder and CIO, ada Learning GmbH
Dr. Léa Steinacker

Cutting Through the Noise

Before this background, we analyzed the following questions:

  • What is really happening in digital innovation and AI in China?

  • Which Chinese companies should you know in this context?

  • Where are China’s strengths and weaknesses in these fields?

  • What does this mean for international companies?

  • What might eventually serve as inspiration

Our analysis followed the following two-level approach:

Firstly, we analyzed the frame conditions of China’s digital ecosystem and compared them with the major digital lead market of the world, the United States.

In the second step, we analyzed the following nine innovation sectors according to the questions raised above:

  1. AI Chips

  2. Image Recognition

  3. Speech Recognition & NLP

  4. Mobility (Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles)

  5. Drones & Service Robots

  6. Industrial

  7. Fintech

  8. Healthcare

  9. New Retail & Logistics

How Will it Continue?

We conclude with an outlook, which deals with the following questions, among others:

  • How will the Sino-US trade conflict continue? Which impact might this have on the China’s innovation potential?

  • Which economic inefficiencies will be resolved next by digital innovation?

  • How will Chinese tech firms leverage their strong domestic foothold for global


  • What might be the potential impacts of stricter regulation on progress and dynamics?

  • Not a leveled playing field: Special rules for foreign companies

Why this Matters for Your Company

International corporations need to watch these developments carefully. This in particular due the following reasons:

  • Leapfrogging: Due to gaps in the existing infrastructure, there are new competitors emerging, which are doing things radically differently

  • The size and dynamics of the Chinese market: Shareholders rarely would accept to

    miss out on these growth opportunities.

  • Global key accounts expect their suppliers to be there. Otherwise they might turn to

    Chinese competitors, also in other parts of the world.

  • China’s aggressive industrial policy around Made in China 2025 is shaping trends in

    future industries. State-backed innovation can disrupt industries on a global scale - as it has already happened in areas such as photovoltaics and steel. Battery cells and storage chips might be next.

  • Inspiration: The speed at which Chinese Internet companies are trying out and applying new technologies is currently unsurpassed.

The seminar is aimed at entrepreneurs, executives and investors who want to understand the current developments in China and incorporate them in their strategic plannings.

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