TechCrunch and the Promise of the Greater Bay Area
On the 19th and 20th November 2018, TechCrunch welcomed thousands of the world’s innovators to Shenzhen. TechCrunch China is fast becoming a date to mark in the tech calendar, bridging technology and innovation between China and the rest of the world.
Firstly, let’s begin with some facts that will blow your mind:
- 35 years ago, Shenzhen was merely a small fishing village, with a population of 30,000 people suffering in a prolonged era of extreme poverty. Today the population has climbed to roughly 12 million. That’s the fastest growing city in recorded history!
- Today, 90% of the world’s electronics are manufactured in Shenzhen, including televisions and mobile phones.
- While a product may take eight months to a year from ideation to market release anywhere else in the world, this process takes only roughly three months in Shenzhen.
- Shenzhen is home to many of the world’s largest and most innovative hi-tech Fortune 500 and 100 companies. That includes Huawei HQ which houses over 60,000 employees, 25,000 of which are in R&D. Companies such as Tencent, DJI, and ZTE call Shenzhen home.
- Tianfu Software Park hands out about 100 million yuan (US$14.9 million) in subsidies to early-stage start-ups and more than 1 billion yuan in overall subsidies, including free office space to selected companies.
- All in all, the Greater Bay area (GBA) which Shenzhen forms part of, boasts close to $1.5 trillion and a population of 67 million. To put things in perspective, compare that to San Francisco Bay Area’s GDP of $500.71 billion and its population of 7 million. Have we got your attention now?! Let’s zoom out now and look at the context:
TechCrunch comes just three months after Beijing’s announcing the launch of the GBA, the Chinese government’s ambitious scheme to link the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing into an integrated economic and business hub.
At the root of it is an infrastructural debut of a 55-kilometre bridge worth $20 billion that connects these places for the very first time. Its overall ambition is simple; to foster collaboration by connecting these economies and creating a single digital market.
The GBA is rivalled only by the Tokyo Bay Area, which takes in $1.8 trillion and houses a population of 43.84 million. However, once the ambitious infrastructural and innovation plans come to fruition, there may not be much competition.
GBA is particularly strong when it comes to manufacturing, finance and emerging technologies. However, each region has their own unique specialisations that they bring to this connection. Dongguan, Guangzhou, Foshan and Shenzhen have for a long time excelled in manufacturing. Macau is a tourism hotspot, known for its palatial resorts and casinos. Hong Kong’s international preeminence will bring with it a dominance in finance, transportation and trade.
The message from Beijing is crystal clear – the aim is for GBA to become an innovation epicentre. The Hong Kong Shenzhen region has seen the development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop into the HK-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park on the border of the two cities. Boasting 350 hectares of dedicated space for start-ups, technology companies, higher education institutions and other innovation groups, this “park” is a $20 billion endeavour. Similarly, $10 billion have been invested in research into healthcare, AI and robotics. As I mentioned, already in residence are corporate heavyweights Huawei and DJI. In fact, Tencent Holdings is also a significant presence in the area, as Tencent’s Pony Ma is working with the Chinese government to facilitate free movement between Macau, Hong Kong and Guangdong, marking a concerted effort by companies and government to increase innovation in the GBA.
Picture: Chinese Academy of Science
Any goal this ambitious would come with a wide range of challenges. Firstly, despite this aim for collaboration, there has in the past been a natural tendency for cities in China to compete with each other, rather than cooperate. The extent of collaboration required for a single market would require a significant cultural shift. Secondly, integrating Hong Kong into this endeavour, despite it being a free port with its own autonomous regime, has raised some eyebrows. Finally, as is always the case with a thriving technological hub, talent is scarce. There is a shortage of undergraduate students with necessary training in advanced mathematics and engineering.
That talent gap is precisely why GetLinks attended Shenzhen at TechCrunch – We are here to help fill it – for the promise of the GBA truly lies in digital transformation and the impact that can have on a global stage.
About the writer:
Naima Camara is a policy and research coordinator for an innovation centre in London. She specialises in writing about advanced digital technology trends around blockchain, immersive artificial intelligence and how these technologies revolutionise the economy.
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