A new look at China’s innovation power

A year ago, UAS Technikum Wien was the first university in Europe to offer a course dedicated specifically to China’s National Innovation System. The focus: “From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’”.

While some people still believe that China’s economic strength is mainly based on the ability to copy ideas from the competitors, others have already started to write off Europe and now see the Middle Kingdom as the driver of innovation in the coming decades. Students working towards a Master’s degree in Innovation and Technology Management require a more differentiated view of China that, in their future roles, will enable them to develop competent assessments. Launched in the winter semester of 2018, “From ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created In China’ – Innovation and IP Management in Today’s China and Chinese Owned Companies Abroad” is part of the Master’s program and is also open to incoming students.

“Discussions about China are often quite emotional,” says Alexander G. Welzl, who designed and teaches the course. “The aim is to arrive at a fact-based and non-Eurocentric view of China’s strategies that maps out the local framework conditions, the people and their culture.” To this end, Welzl and his students are concentrating on the National Innovation System of the People’s Republic as well as on how innovation and creativity are managed at leading Chinese companies.

Particular attention is being directed at the digital transformation process – from AI and big data to quantum computing – as well as green economy and sustainability in China. One of the decisive questions in this regard is how knowledge is being transferred from universities and research institutes to companies. The skills required to build bridges from Europe via Eurasia to China in the 21st century are also being addressed on the basis of inter-cultural dimensions.

Top-class guest speakers

The course material is frequently enriched on the basis of a first-hand transfer of knowledge from China. LEI Fengyun, for instance, who was appointed Science Attaché to the Chinese Embassy in Vienna a short while ago, gave a talk as a guest speaker in November 2019. Lei can already look back on a long career as a civil servant in leading positions and has played an active role in China’s development as a driver of innovation and in the exchange of talent and ideas on an international level.

new look at China's innovation power

Counsellor for Science and Technology LEI Fengyun, Alexander G. WELZL

Other prominent guest speakers from the world of business have included Markus Schermann, General Manager at Great Wall Motor Austria Research & Development, ZHANG Liqun, CEO at Diamond Aircraft Industries and Roman Hoffmann, Vice President at Huawei Technologies Austria. Academia and multinational organizations have been represented by Dr. QIN Aihua, Professor at the CASS Institute of European Studies (Beijing) and Dr. GONG Weixi, Chief of Investment Promotion Division of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

Exchange at all levels

Besides benefiting from presentations by guest speakers, students are also given a fundamental introduction to China’s innovation system and then study selected business cases. The acquisition of data to do so is one of the most significant challenges in this context. But contacts have already been established to this end with UNIDO, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS, Beijing) and the Chinese Embassy. Alexander G. Welzl has also been invited to talk at some of the leading Chinese universities (Peking University, Zhejiang University in Hangzhou) and was a guest of the Chinese Ambassador LI Xiaosi in Vienna.

International exchange is also reflected in the participants of the course themselves: incoming students from more than 10 countries to date – including China – have taken part within the framework of the IOCEST project, which is sponsored by the City of Vienna and is aimed at internationalization and the promotion of English-language courses.

a new look at china's innovation power

Lecture at Peking University: Dr. Yu Jia (Director, International Office, Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University), Alexander G. WELZL, Dr. Philippe VIALATTE (Minister Counsellor, Head of the Science and Technology Section, Delegation of the European Union to China in Beijing, second from the right)