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New agreement opens up Shanghai’s startup and test-bed environments r

A declaration of intent between Business Region Gothenburg and the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality creates new opportunities for Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg. Roads are also being opened in Shanghai’s startup and test-bed environments for the region's companies.    


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On 11th and 12th April Gothenburg was visited by the Chinese Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (STCSM). The reason was the signing of a declaration of intent or so-called MoU (memorandum of understanding) between STCSM and Business Region Gothenburg. The programme also included visits to Chalmers vehicle- and traffic-safety centre SAFER and the vehicle lab Revere at Lindholmen and at AB Volvo for a demonstration of autonomous heavy vehicles.

The declaration of intent creates opportunities for increased collaboration and exchange between the two cities in the fields of industry, science parks and academia. The main areas of collaboration in the agreement are sustainable mobility and transport solutions, ICT (Information and Communication Technology), life science & geriatric care and energy & environmental technologies.

“We do not want to stick with too narrow an MoU, thus the whole thing has been kept generalised, opening up many opportunities. At an overall level the areas of collaboration are actually the same as those in the partnership agreement. The MoU should be seen as a sub-agreement to the city-partnership agreement, enabling collaboration between STCSM and Business Region Gothenburg,” says Maria Strömberg, Head of Cluster & Innovation at Business Region Gothenburg.

High innovative capacity attracts

Back in May 2017 in conjunction with a delegation from Gothenburg visiting Shanghai to extend the partnership agreement between the two cities, Maria Strömberg spoke about the conversations with STCSM on future collaboration.

A commission corresponds roughly to what we would call an administration, be it a gigantic one – there are 68 universities in Shanghai, 57 of which are funded by STCSM. The remaining eleven are national.

Business Region Gothenburg has previously collaborated with several commissions in Shanghai, including on energy and transport issues. 

"But we wanted a commission that works across several fields, because we do a lot of work on innovation issues across several industries and areas. We were then advised to meet STCSM, whose approach is the same as regards research and innovation issues. They naturally read about the ranking of the Gothenburg region's high innovative capacity and the investments being made here, and thought it sounded interesting. It was also STCSM that proposed we draw up a declaration of intent in order to formalise active collaboration with us,” says Maria Strömberg.

Was it pretty much what you envisaged last year?

"Yes, I guess it was. This MoU above all opens up opportunities for Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg in their collaboration with universities in Shanghai, maybe primarily Tongji and Fudan, and in their quest for funding for joint research out in China that includes industry,” says Maria Strömberg.

The declaration of intent can also lead to major opportunities for students at Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg in terms of participating in international exchanges with Tongji University and Fudan University.

Jörgen Sjöberg, a strategic business developer at Chalmers, has overall responsibility for internationalisation and was there when the declaration of intent was signed on Business Region Gothenburg's premises at Norra Hamngatan.

“Chalmers' collaboration with various partners in Shanghai is of great importance both to the relevant parts of Chalmers and to the university as a whole. STCSM's support is valuable, and an agreement with the City of Gothenburg strengthens the conditions for continued positive development,” he says

Maria Strömberg

New contact routes into startup environments and test beds

Maria Strömberg emphasises that the MoU agreement also opens up new contact routes into startup environments for small companies that want to go into China, and that they will be able to get the right support in order to get bigger.

"Swedish promoting organisations are already in place to coach our companies on the Chinese market, but with the MoU we are also adding the structures and cooperative environments in Shanghai in order to help international companies enter these environments. STCSM owns and finances a number of startup environments in Shanghai. For smaller companies in the Gothenburg region who want to start a business in Shanghai we can thus point people in the right direction in terms of contacts for startup environments, innovation environments, innovation competitions – and hopefully also testbeds.

Through the collaborative agreement the idea is to form skills centres in Shanghai that also involve Swedish industry on location in the areas of collaboration, and to facilitate the offer of opportunities for Swedish companies to take part in test beds in Shanghai.

"We similarly want to be able to offer Chinese companies the chance to come here and take part in our test beds. It’s a mutual exchange we hope we’ll be able to facilitate,” says Maria Strömberg.  

"And Shanghai is doing a great deal of work on electrification, with things moving at breakneck speed and on a large scale, unlike what we have here – which is exciting. They’re also really good at control systems – they have a total overview of their electric cars, collect lots of data and have a visual control system that is completely different to ours. Parts of this may be of interest to us, and we may be able to learn from them,” says Maria Strömberg.

Attractive partner for road-safety issues

To start with something specific, Business Region Gothenburg and STCSM have chosen to look at road-safety issues, so during the second day the delegation visited SAFER at Lindholmen. SAFER's vision is to be a hub that attracts international research into vehicle and traffic safety in a real traffic environment. Chalmers is the host for the centre, with the other 32 parties coming from academia, institutions, industry and public authorities.

"It is our hope that through this MoU a similar platform will be able to be established in Shanghai around road-safety research. We do after all have several companies in Sweden that are good in that area – the two Volvo companies, Autoliv, Zenuity. At the same time the Chinese are extremely curious about Gothenburg, thanks to Geely’s investments and everything that is taking place within our vehicle cluster. Things are developing really fast in China right now, and we have a tradition of great expertise in the area here in the Gothenburg region. We’re an attractive partner,” says Maria Strömberg.

Magnus Granström is the director of SAFER, and he welcomes the new agreement.

“An MoU of this nature is yet another clear link between Sweden and China,  specifically Shanghai and Gothenburg, and creates even better conditions for successful research work in the field of traffic and vehicle safety. Multidisciplinary collaboration in this area is currently being carried out by the China Sweden Research Centre for Traffic Safety (CTS), and the new agreement creates new opportunities for joint projects,” he says.

Important to show how we work in Sweden

As is so often the case, the subject of human relations crops up in the context when collaboration with China is being discussed. Maria Strömberg has been asked this before.

"It’s important that in all our visits to China we show how we collaborate in the City of Gothenburg and what the democratic processes – including human rights – are like. And even though we may not talk specifically about human rights with this delegation, it is important to show how we work in Sweden and how we include and involve people. Transparency, openness – they are important.

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