Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC)

BCECC Newsletter: Technology collaboration between China and Belgium

China and Belgium are internationally recognized as countries with distinct technological capabilities. In an era marked by rapid technological advancements and globalization, international collaboration has become crucial for countries seeking to stay at the forefront of innovation. Consequently, there is a big advantage in increased technology collaboration between China and Belgium.

On 14 December 2023, the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) organized a seminar about technological collaboration and opportunities between Belgium and China. Speakers were Peter Tanghe, Science & Technology Counselor of Flanders Investment & Trade in Guangzhou, Professor Luc Taerwe, Director of the East Asia Platform of the Ghent University and Wim Steenackers, Sales Manager of QbD Group.

According to Peter Tanghe, despite geopolitical and other challenges, Belgian companies are still looking for ways to do business with China and want to discover where the opportunities are. Professor Taerwe gave an introduction about the successful academic collaboration between Ghent University and Chinese universities and their students’ exchange programs. Finally, Wim Steenackers provided a  company testimonial about the importance of China for the QbD Group and the lessons learned along the way. He stressed that business development in China requires special attention and comes with challenges.

According to Peter Tanghe, China wants to achieve its objective of growing GDP per capita from middle-income to high-income status by using technology to further increase the productivity of its core industries. However, to achieve those ambitious goals, China still needs foreign expertise and products where there is a technology gap or lack of experience. The recent increased ‘decoupling’ from US technology offers opportunities for Belgian tech companies.

From a Belgian perspective, there are three main technology domains:

  • Digital Tech: Belgium is home to the world-leading nanotechnology research centre imec and a semiconductor and photonics eco-system, as well as to a rising generation of digital and artificial intelligence scale-ups. However, this sector is probably the most difficult one in terms of collaboration between Belgium and China and protection of intellectual properties. For this reason, many Belgian companies are looking at other countries in South-East Asia, such as Singapore. Opportunities are certainly still available in China, for example in niche industries, such as smartphones and electricl vehicles.
  • Climate Tech: This collaboration includes sharing expertise in solar and wind energy, as well as exploring innovative technologies for battery storage and energy conservation. In recent years, the competition from China has significantly increased, and only a few Belgian companies are successful in China. However, there are certainly still a lot of collaboration opportunities, in particular working with Chinese companies for business development in Europe.
  • Health Tech: Belgium has a leading position in Life Sciences, with hundreds of pioneering biotech and life science companies. Belgium also is the European leader in clinical trials and offers an excellent digital health and MedTech ecosystem. There are also a lot of Chinese private companies in biotech and MedTech, making Health Tech probably one of the most interesting segments for China-Belgium collaboration. As illustrated by the QbD case study, there are numerous license-in and license-out opportunities for Belgian biotech and biopharma companies, as well as an active interest from leading China biotech companies for clinical trial developments in the EU.

Challenges in Collaboration:

Despite the potential benefits, technology collaboration between China and Belgium faces certain challenges. Differences in regulatory frameworks, intellectual property protection, and cultural nuances can pose hurdles. Peter Tanghe identified 3 main qualifiers for success:

  • Understand and test your product market fit and competitiveness in the right niche.
  • Protect and maintain your unique product advantage against local competitors (in product, IP, expertise and brand).
  • Identify and work with the right business partner.

Opportunities for startups and SMEs

Collaboration between Belgium and China presents unique opportunities for startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in both countries. Joint ventures and cross-border partnerships can provide these entities with access to new markets, funding, and technological expertise, fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation. By combining their strengths and addressing the challenges head-on, such partnerships between Belgian and Chinese companies and organizations do not only benefit the collaborating companies, but also contribute to the advancement of global technology and the well-being of humanity.

Please contact the Belgian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) in case you need more information.