The platform initiative has three goals: take
risks on early stage startups; help foreign and domestic universities
connect to Chinese investment; and fundamentally change the way Chinese
startups are operated so that they can prosper.
mortality rate” for both Chinese and U.S. tech startups is too high,
Chen said. The current focus for VCs is software, not so much on
hardware. A bigger problem is that “nobody is funding projects focused
on improvement of manufacturing process or materials,” he said. By
assigning technologists, entrepreneurs and PKU alumni to “match-making”
tasks, Chen said he envisions the Open Innovation Platform connecting
more pre-IPO companies with Chinese investment.
As more private capital moves to lower-risk investment, university IP remains locked up in school with nowhere to go, Chen said. Meanwhile, universities are seeking Chinese partners or creating research consortia. In June this year, the University of Wisconsin opened the UW–Madison Shanghai Innovation Office designed to “serve as a focal point for the university’s growing engagement in China.”
Indeed, Chen said “innovation offices” are popping up everywhere here. Rather than growing competition, the challenge is whether this model is sustainable with only a few experts running the offices.
A typical problem is finding local talent to help run an innovation office while building vital relationships with government agencies. Despite a variety of local and national funding sources, Chen said, “getting Chinese funding is not that easy.”
Hence, Chen argued that the Open Innovation Platform can help universities and companies attract funding and gain market access – more efficiently and effectively.