Griffith Enterprise (GE) recently joined one of Australia’s largest trade and innovation delegations to China. Joined by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Australia Week in China (AWIC) included over 1000 people from business, education, government, manufacturing and health and science.

Lead by CSIRO Board Member and Chairman of Griffith Enterprise Board, Peter Riddles, the Griffith delegation was comprised of Professor Ron Quinn who established Nature Bank at the Eskitis Institute in Brisbane, and Ty Ferretti — Griffith Enterprise Science Engineering and Technology Business Innovation Manager. The week included visits to Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou before all delegates come together in Shanghai.

The AWIC 2016 program was a hectic round of trade and investment seminars, roundtables, site visits, product showcases and opportunities for networking with Chinese business, industry and government. GE was given the chance to present their expertise on new materials, advanced manufacturing, and successful partnership arrangements at two seminars and showcases and Ty Ferretti handled both occasions with the sense of opportunity the moment demanded.

“Griffith’s research in clean energy and the environment are well positioned to address the enormous opportunities currently present in China. However, the method for successfully transferring this expertise may be just as creative as the technologies themselves. Griffith has a proven track record in this area and it was my honour to help share our findings with delegates in the Innovation track,” Mr Ferritti said.

“Our successful relationship with China is not an accident — it’s in the foundation of who we are as a University. Griffith has been heavily involved with China since the 70s, so we have a good record of genuine and positive relationships. China want to transition from manufacturing to a service economy and this is where key strategic partnerships with a University like Griffith can be important.”

Of course China is not immune from the problems of the world and is looking to technology and services to solve them, from ageing populations to child care, climate change and clean air and water. Having over 1.4 billion people can make some of these issues particularly acute and the pace of change in China difficult to fathom. For some, like tech giants Xiaomi, the rise can be spectacular. In 2011 the company sold 181,000 phones. Last year, it led the market with 64.9 million phones.

Opportunities for Australian companies and universities in China have risen following the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) which came into being in December 2015.

“You can feel the energy through the streets in a place like Shanghai,” said Mr Ferretti. “The FTA hasn’t solved our problems; we still have IP issues, we still have language issues, we still have cultural issues, but the world’s issues are bigger and China want to be part of an entrepreneurial solution,” Mr Ferretti said.

Griffith Enterprise director, Nicholas Mathieu sees China’s move toward a services-based economy as one of the big forces that will reshape the global economy. Universities could be leaders within that new economy provide they appropriately shape their research, expertise and relationships.

<“The convergence of technologies is making business easier, more affordable and translatable. China is rapidly moving into this market and they will no longer fill a place on the production line. They want to deliver design, engineering, financial and social services and this economic impetus will energise this convergence and change our world,” he said.

However, convergence is a force that affects everyone, including the Chinese. Financial publishers, Bloomberg recently reported that half of China’s 300 mobile phone manufacturers could disappear in the next 12 months.

“Universities have immense capability to address these challenges if they refocus themselves on delivering social (including commercial) outcomes in an entrepreneurial, services-focussed world that is converging. Behemoths like China and India will just roll past us if we’re not engaged and outcomes-focussed,” he said.

“Australian universities have the depth of research, thinking and relationships to unleash this capability, be leaders for our communities and help make this transition with confidence.”