European industry report: China’s innovation ecosystem – right for many, but not for all Go back »

2022-06-08 | All chapters

European industry report: China’s innovation ecosystem – right for many, but not for all

Beijing, 8th June 2022 – The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (European Chamber), in partnership with the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), today published China’s Innovation Ecosystem: Right for many, but not for all. Based on a member survey and in-depth interviews, the report highlights that while there are many positive aspects to undertaking R&D in China, there are still areas where European companies need to exercise caution.

The report finds that European companies see enormous value in the variety of collaboration partners available in China, ranging from established national champions to companies that are part of China’s vibrant start-up ecosystem, and inventive scientists and researchers. Other notable positives include the size of China’s market and the fast pace of commercialisation of R&D results, both of which were recognised by 68% of survey respondents.

As a result, some European companies are increasingly integrating China R&D with their global efforts, and while the majority are using China R&D to refine existing products, more and more are creating new goods and services in China, including as part of their global portfolios.

However, the report also reveals the risks of engaging in R&D in China. These include weak intellectual property rights (IPR) protection systems, an unlevel playing field for foreign companies and negative sentiment in their home markets towards R&D in China, reported by 32%, 27% and 23% of respondents respectively. Unequal access to government support in comparison with local companies was also reported by 82% of respondents, with reasons for this including opaque or unclear information/processes for accessing grants and subsidies, administrative challenges not faced by local companies, support schemes that are not publicly announced and explicit rules preventing foreign companies from accessing support.

In addition, the report highlights that the benefits of engaging in R&D in China are not universal. Those operating in industries in which investment is not encouraged in China—such as information and communication technology (ICT), telecommunications and all things digital—face more challenges to R&D. Similarly, the risks associated with R&D in China are disproportionately larger for small and medium-sized enterprises, which have fewer resources to counter significant challenges such as IP theft. In that sense, European companies have embraced diverse strategies based on their own technological positions relative to the local ecosystem, with some going ‘all-in’ and others adopting a ‘hedged bets’ approach.

“There are many reasons for foreign companies to invest in R&D in China, but companies need to be clear where the risks are and where their competitive advantage lies before deciding how much to commit,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “In that respect it is much like China’s market overall, it is vibrant and can be hugely rewarding but ultimately it may not be the right decision for every company.”

“From a European policymaker perspective, there is a need for a dispassionate appraisal balancing the technology leakage risks of further integration into China’s innovation ecosystem with the potential value they can extract from China to boost their global competitiveness,” said Mikko Huotari, executive director of MERICS. “Such an exercise could generate valuable corporate guidance from the European Commission, while also contributing to a framework for how to manage technological ties with a systemic rival that is home to business partners and competitors.”

This report was completed with support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and was developed with input from colloquium partners under the project - University of Duisburg-Essen and Ruhr University Bochum

Download the full report here.

 

欧洲行业报告:中国创新生态系统——如饮水者,冷暖自知

北京,2022年6月8日—中国欧盟商会联合墨卡托中国研究中心今日发布《中国创新生态系统:如饮水者,冷暖自知》。基于对中国欧盟商会会员的问卷调查和深入访谈,本报告指出,欧洲企业在华开展研发创新活动固然大有裨益,但在部分领域中仍需保持谨慎态度。

报告表明,欧洲企业极为看重中国本土合作伙伴的多样性,其中既有成熟的本土领军企业也有新兴的初创公司,以及创新型科学家及研发人员。其他显著有利条件包括中国的市场规模和研发成果的快速商用,这两点被68%的受访企业所认可。

因此,一些欧洲企业正不断将中国的研发活动融入其全球战略中。尽管目前大部分企业的中国研发活动致力于改进现有产品,但越来越多的企业趋于在中国进行全新产品的开发,并将其纳入企业的全球产品组合。

值得注意的是,本报告也揭示了参与中国的研发活动所面临的风险,包括薄弱的知识产权保护体系、外资企业面临的不公平竞争环境以及母国市场对中国研发活动所持的负面看法,分别有32%、27%和23%的受访企业反映了这三个问题。此外,82%的受访企业表示获得政府研发支持的机会相较于本土企业而言并不均等,主要原因在于:申请信息/流程不透明或不清晰、面临本土企业无需应对的行政挑战、支持政策未公开发布,以及支持政策明确规定不适用于外资企业。

报告还强调,并非所有行业都能从中国的研发活动中受益。在不鼓励外商投资的行业——如信息和通信技术、电信及数字行业——在中国开展研发活动面临诸多挑战。对于中小型企业而言,在华研发工作也同样需要承担巨大风险,因为这些企业拥有较少资源来应对知识产权失窃等严重问题。由此,欧洲企业基于自身在当地生态系统中的技术地位而采取了不同战略,有些选择“火力全开”加大对中国研发的投资,有些则采取“对冲赌注”的方式。

“吸引外资企业在中国投资研发的有利因素众多,但在企业作出投资决心之前,有必要明确认识市场潜在风险和自身竞争优势,”中国欧盟商会主席伍德克表示,“从这个角度来看,中国的研发环境体现了中国市场的整体特点:它生机勃勃、潜力无穷,但未必适合所有企业。”

“欧洲政策制定者需要作出理性评估,在进一步融入中国创新生态系统时所面临的技术泄漏风险和充分汲取中国市场的潜在价值以提升全球竞争力二者之间取得平衡。” 墨卡托中国研究中心执行董事Mikko Huotari表示,“欧盟委员会可以为企业提供有价值的指导,并且建立起一个应对制度性对手的框架,以处理好与合作伙伴和竞争者云集的市场的技术关系。”

本报告获得德国联邦教育及研究部的资助,并在撰写过程中得到了该项目合作伙伴德国波鸿鲁尔⼤学和杜伊斯堡-埃森⼤学的支持。

下载本报告,请点击此处

For more information please contact

Charlotte Svensson