Almost one year ago on 20th February 2020, led by Torch High Technology Industry Development Center, Ministry of Science & Technology, China Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition was launched to combat Covid-19. Among 1157 registered corporations, after the fierce virtual competition, 24 of them made it to the final.
The competition was articulated around the domains of intelligent warning, protection equipment, screening & testing, and medical devices, hoping to speed up the application of new technologies in the battle against the pandemic. The first prize eventually went to BioGerm, a biotech that has put itself on the map being one of the first suppliers of Novel Coronavirus acid test kit approved by the National Medical Products Administration.
This is just one of the successful practices where the Chinese government has taken the lead in accelerating the implementation of innovative inventions through business competition, challenges, and open innovations. Instead of simply offering financial support to winners, the goal of such initiatives is to create a vital node that connects start-ups, universities, financial institutions, and policymakers across China.
Showering resources to unleash potentials
"Maker in China" SMEs Innovation &Entrepreneurship Competition, in the face of Covid-19, introduced a track for participants innovating in the field of disease control and prevention, ranging from therapies, diagnosis to vaccines and prevention equipment. The national competition was brought out by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ministry of Finance, attracting over 25,000 projects among which 1,300 firms and organizations received 11 billion RMB investment. 115 banks have offered credit extensions up to 1.5 billion RMB and meanwhile 491 leading corporations have entered into alliances with 895 projects.
Awarded projects can develop beyond boundaries through access to the fundraising event, training services, and incubation programs.
- Projects will be proposed to financial institutions such as investment funds and venture capitals, gaining a higher priority in the assessment. They can further leverage the investment to implement technologies into practices, and for scientific achievements, to explore other potential areas.
- The ideas of innovation will also go on display on Maker in China's matrix of social media platforms (WeChat, Weibo, etc.) or being presented at China SMEs Fair and APEC SMEs Conferences. Such promotion would increase the project's business attractiveness and expand its network with potential partners.
- Winning teams will be invited to join incubators for innovation and entrepreneurship where lenient and supportive policies fuel the growth of innovation. Meanwhile, firms are provided with legal, financial, and human resource services that smooth the process of technology transformation and commercialization.
We have also witnessed how unprecedented crisis might become a stimulant for incumbents in the industry to repurpose their offering, leveraging their existing knowledge base.
SmartSP, a pharyngeal swab sample collection robot is one on the winner's list. It was brought to life because of the joint efforts of a bunch of medical experts and a technology company Shuchi Medical.
The pressures to take rapid responses in the healthcare system have propelled the tech company that specialized in medical automation to redirect its current R&D resources on inventing sample collecting robots. This invention will greatly help to reduce risks of infection for medical personnel while streamlining the testing process.
We also hear young voices in the national contest. "Our goal is to exploit AI technology to help frontline doctors." said Tianyi, a Ph.D. student from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and also a participant in the 6th "Internet+" Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. His team presented an AI system that is capable to assist doctors in diagnosing and making treatment plans. Now, the systems have been implemented in many hospitals.
According to the Ministry of Education in China, the competition in 2020 has attracted 6.3 million participants across the whole country. College students have invested their time and expertise to address challenges brought by the Covid-19. Some students have built an educational platform to mitigate the inconvenience caused by lockdowns, and some have invented AI-based disinfection robots and innovative medical goggles as effective approaches to safeguard health.
Open innovation as a trigger for collective efforts
This approach has shed light on how heterogenous parties coordinate with each other to deal with social challenges. Several regional open data innovation contests have been launched in cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Wuhan, etc. The innovation contests crowdsourcing covid-related solutions through granting access participants access to large datasets once held exclusively to the governments or corporations.
The initiatives involved government agencies such as the Ministry of Commerce, telecommunications companies such as China Mobile, private corporations from areas as mobile transportation and food delivery, academics from prestigious universities, research institutions, and entrepreneurs.
Being goal-driven, those practices, usually in the forms of algorithm competition or data analysis contests underline potential solutions to conquer designated problems, encouraging participants to harness external resources to generate innovations. In the Beijing Open Data Competition, the concerned topics include fake news detection, psychological state recognition, population density projection, and other potential countermeasures against Covid-19.
Application of innovation at a global level
The 5th World Internet Conference concluded in Wuzhen, China on 22nd November 2020. The initiation has drawn more than a thousand teams from 15 countries. It has facilitated connectivity among countries and boosted the diffusion of technologies by drawing attention to those disruptive innovations at an international level. Awards companies involve successful practices contributing to the global combat against pandemic: Tencent meetings, warning system based on close contact with confirmed patients by SAP, the contactless delivery solution proposed by Meituan.
Innovation in China also receives recognition for its achievement in the related field. The technology for indoor dynamic air and object surface disinfection brought out by ZhiZhong Technology has won in UNIDO Global Call under the category of "Health Emergency".
"We hope that through ITPO Network, our simple, effective and successful experience can be introduced to more countries affected by the epidemic, especially developing countries, to create a community of shared future for mankind! " said Wei Zhang, the CEO of ZhiZhong Technology after the award.