High-tech event draws experts from near and far to swap ideas and spur growth.
Chengdu is becoming a byword in China and worldwide for entrepreneurship and technological innovation.
Traditionally when anyone has visited the city it may have been assumed they were there to see pandas or to delight in spicy food, but these days visitors are just as likely to be attending one of the many seminars on investment opportunities or stock exchange and project exhibitions held there.
It was thus fitting that the capital of Sichuan province should play host to the 2017 Global Innovation Entrepreneurship Fair last month, and in so doing attract 1,200 people, including four Nobel prize laureates, 20 world-class academics and more than 50 representatives of top universities from around the world.
At the three-day event, more than 600 companies and institutions displayed their products, 150 conducted road shows, and another 200 recruited fresh graduates.
At the annual fair, the value of trade deals done was worth 24 billion yuan ($3.49 billion).
British economist John Howkins, who attended the fair, said he visited many studios and companies in Chengdu and found their ideas as brilliant as those in other cities known for their creativity.
Howkins suggested that startups in Chengdu make good use of local talent resources to pave the way for their market expansion and become part of the global market.
Fraser Stoddart, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry, plans to set up two companies in Chengdu, saying it has laid a solid foundation for entrepreneurship.
Stoddart was echoed by Leo Liang, chief executive officer of Greater China, Siemens PLM Software.
“Chengdu is seeing innovation as the basis for future development, and this is something it has in common with Siemens. We are planning to build a global research center here in Chengdu.”
Liang said Chengdu was chosen because of local authorities’ support, the cultural environment and human resources. Siemens’ Chengdu plant is already its largest manufacturing base in western China.
One of those attending the Silicon Valley Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, part of the fair, was Steve Mann on his visit to Chengdu. Mann is an expert in wearable computing.
The forum is an international conference designed to foster innovation and promote business partnerships connecting the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. Previously held in Silicon Valley, it came to Chengdu last year.
Mann said Chengdu has a tradition of innovation and has the possibility of becoming a creative center for wearable technology.
If Chengdu can help bridge Toronto, the birthplace of wearable technology, and Silicon Valley, home to many technology companies, it will become a major center of innovation, he said.
At the forum, 100 Silicon Valley-based tech companies showcased their latest products in fields such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, virtual reality, smart medicine, software and wearable equipment.
To facilitate their efforts to start businesses in Chengdu, the organizing committee, with the support of the city government, arranged a meeting for 100 such projects to attract investment.
Another highlight of the fair was the Finland Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference.
Slush, one of the largest venture capital platforms in Nordic countries, organized a startup event named Slush Up! Chengdu during the conference.
Wang Chen, chief executive officer of Slush China, said Chengdu is the most vibrant city in central and western China.
“We visited many universities in Chengdu and found many who would like to start their own business. We want to go to the most lively Chinese city, where the young are the most passionate, so we came here to Chengdu.”
Slush Up! Chengdu attracted more than 300 representatives from 23 countries, including Britain, Finland, France, Germany and the U.S. The event featured information and communication technology, artificial intelligence, games, media and communication.
Mario Wynands, cofounder and CEO of Pikpok, a New Zealand gaming studio, expressed his interest in working with local companies in Chengdu.
Wynands said he hopes his colleagues can come to China to see how gaming has progressed and would like to send representatives to New Zealand to see how it has developed there.