Italian firms giving Shanghai a facelift

Italian startups cover fields in the world's leading technologies such as virtual reality, smart home solutions and genetic testing.

The first batch of 11 Italian startups have come to the city to internationalize their scope under the Italian government’s new Global Startup Program.

Italy's Ministry of Economic Development has launched the program to provide Italian startups with access to the global market in six countries — China, Japan, the UK, the US, Slovenia and South Korea.

It chose Shanghai over other candidates including Beijing and Shenzhen as the first landing city in China.

It’s not a time-costing decision. Michele Geraci, Italy's under-secretary of the Ministry Economic Development, was greatly impressed by Shanghai's international and dynamic innovation ecosystem during his two visits to the city in November and December 2018.

Then came cooperation between the Italian Trade Agency and the Shanghai Technology Innovation Center, a government-affiliated body experienced in coordinating the incubation network and international startup ecosystem in Shanghai.

The 11 Italian startups cover fields in the world’s leading technologies such as virtual reality, smart home solutions and genetic testing.

They will be offered three-month workspace in four of the city’s leading incubators and accelerators — the Caohejing Innovation Center, XNode, InnoSpace and neoBay — and access to a full suite of services, including coaching, financing and tailored events.

Carlo Ferro, President of Italian Trade Agency, said China and Italy hold the same views on development and both focus on internationalization and innovation.

“China has such a huge market and is an ideal place to seek cooperation.

"In China, Shanghai’s innovation ecosystem holds the leading place, and it is dynamic and creative.

“Globally, Shanghai is one of very few cities that can provide everything from technological support to rich resources to startups.”

Zhu Zhenghong, director of Shanghai Technology Innovation Center, said Italy wants to explore China’s huge market and local companies want to learn technologies.

“We hope to drive more cooperation as for mutual development,” he said. “It’s just the beginning. In the future, we hope to export our own startups abroad.”

Zhou said the four innovation platforms have been especially selected based on the needs of Italian startups.

It’s not hard for expats to do business in China but it’s not easy for them to achieve success, he said.

The key point is to make sure they utilize the right resources.

“InnoSpace is an expert in global VC pitching and XNode keeps close ties with renowned multinational companies," he said.

"Also Caohejing and noeBay have close links with local leading tech companies which could help the Italy startups connect China opportunities.”

Ferro said the program aims to promote 104 Italian startups to be launched in the overseas market and Chinese cities.

Roberto Pagani, scientific counselor of the Consulate General of Italy in Shanghai, said: “Italy is a research power in a way. 

"We have 1.2 percent of the world's researchers and we do 3.5 percent of all scientific publications in the world.

“We have a lot of collaboration with universities in China. But the problem is the shift between research and innovation.

"This initiative for startups comes from making a more efficient transfer between research in which we are strong and innovation.”

Shanghai has become a budding heartland for innovators around the world.

Leading international accelerator Plug and Play from Silicon Valley has announced it will establish its regional Yangtze River Delta headquarters in Shanghai this year, following some of the world’s renowned innovation platforms such as WeWork and Microsoft Accelerator.

Also, the Australian government’s Landing Pad program, which aims to nurture creativity and startup companies, has been launched in Shanghai.

And the Israeli government has built an innovation park in Shanghai, where Israeli incubators, universities and startups will gather.

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