Finland and China may be two very different countries, but there is plenty of potential for collaboration. Now a Chinese ICT innovation cluster is boosting business opportunities between them with a new office in Finland.
The mission of the Jinan China International ICT Innovation Cluster (Jinan CIIIC) is to support Chinese high-tech companies in internationalisation and foreign expansion. To better serve this purpose Jinan CIIIC launched its first business hub in Northern Europe (and the second outside China) in Vantaa, Finland in September 2016.
“Chinese companies are very interested in new technologies and products and a clear part of their strategy today is to find organic growth by investing abroad,” explains Esa Rantanen, Manager of Jinan CIIIC’s Vantaa office. “Finland’s reputation as a high technology country makes it an interesting target.”
The task of the Vantaa hub is to help more Chinese companies access the Finnish market, support Finnish companies interested in Chinese markets and also act as a platform to improve cooperation between businesses in both countries.
Jinan is the capital city of the Shandong province in Eastern China – located a two-hour train ride from Beijing – and home to over 6.8 million inhabitants. CIIIC is part of the city’s Jinan High-Tech Zone business park and coordinates the international efforts of thousands of local companies across multiple industries located there. When CIIIC started to scout potential locations for deepening its presence in Europe last year, Finnish organisations were quick to react.
A delegation from Helsinki Business Hub (the capital region’s development agency), Invest in Finland and the City of Vantaa met with CIIIC representatives in late 2015 and in January 2016 the parties signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ for enhanced business cooperation between the two countries.
“Vantaa and Jinan are sister cities and have been collaborating for over 15 years,” Rantanen says. “Jinan of course has several sister cities, but it has very good contacts with Vantaa and both cities wanted to deepen that collaboration further.”
These efforts culminated in July 2016 when CIIIC made the decision to start its business hub in Vantaa. The Finnish organisations – led by HBH – facilitated the decision-making process by arranging visits to Jinan, providing practical information on the Finnish business environment and helping CIIIC with recruitment and offices spaces.
The Jinan CIIIC Vantaa office was officially opened in September 2016.
After spending the first months planning its operations and building contacts, the Jinan CIIC Vantaa office is now getting ready to shift to a higher gear. It is preparing several business delegation visits between China and Finland for 2017, including a trip for Chinese startups and investors to Northern Europe’s largest startup conference Helsinki-based Slush in November.
Currently Jinan CIIIC employs one person in Vantaa, but the aim is to start recruitment as its activities grow with the goal of expanding the operations into a business incubator for Chinese companies in Finland.
“In Stuttgart Jinan CIIIC operates a ‘business hotel’ model where its incubator provides office space for 15 companies,” explains Rantanen. “When we have enough interested companies we will start to build this in Finland. This makes it easy for Chinese companies to come to Finland and lowers the barriers of entry as they have local contacts helping them.”
But prior to this Rantanen will complete a survey into the most compatible sectors between China and Finland. Currently one of the most promising is the health and wellbeing industry where Finnish companies have plenty of expertise to offer.
“While the scale is different in China, both countries have similar challenges such as an aging population,” says Rantanen. “Chinese companies are very interested in the concepts used to address this in Finland and the related technologies and products. Of course these things take time and the business environment is slightly different in China, but we are excited by the potential.”
Picture: Siguo Wang, Head of Jinan Science Park of Health Care & Kari Nenonen, Mayor of the City of Vantaa cut the ribbon in the opening ceremony of the Jinan CIIIC’s Vantaa office in September 2016.