This individual statement is in line with what Swissnex in China has been observing; various Swiss companies have mandated us to support their corporate-startup matchmaking in China in order to get early insights into trends, experimental technologies and possibly new business verticals. As the IMD observed, corporate-startup co-innovation models leverage the innovation capabilities of China’s startup ecosystem to build or enhance a solution either for the global or specifically for the Chinese market. While Swiss corporates possess technical assets, sophisticated distribution channels and brand credibility, Chinese startups in particular have a proximity to the Chinese end-user and, as mentioned above, the agility to build and test solutions quickly not only for the Chinese, but also the global market. This creates win-win opportunities that have less political and regulatory exposure.
Startups certainly have a role to play in corporate innovation; there are various models of how corporates could engage with Chinese startups and Swiss corporates such as Firmenich have already paved the way. There are some truly fascinating “rising startup stars” on the horizon in China, such as PHABuilder, whose R&D pipeline includes green biodegradable materials, or Joes Future Food, whio is developing the capabilities to commercialize cell-based meat production, notably pork, in China.
Corporate collaboration with such Chinese startups might well offer a dynamic and lean way to leverage China’s R&D potential, particularly in politically and economically fragile times during which new large-scale R&D investments may be a risky and therefore not viable option.