China Forum 2013

China Forum 2013 Vienna

The meeting held in Vienna, Austria, on November 3rd 2013, co-organized by BayHelix, EBD Group and ChinaBio, sponsored by Ropes & Gray (one of the world’s leading law firms) is the fourth of this type, and was a BIO-Europe 2013 Pre-Conference Event.

As in the past, the event was intended for international executives who wish to conduct business in the life science industry in China. The meeting was well attended by roughly one hundred people, and several Chinese as well as western executives, active in China, presented facts and perspectives in a still fast growing market.

Darren JiGlobal Head, Asia and Emerging Markets Partnering at Roche– and Kewen JinManaging Partner, Wen Associates in Suzhou-, both serial entrepreneurs in the Chinese life science industry, were the main moderators and they brought interesting novel issues to the debates.

Of course the following classical topics were tackled:

– Why go to China?

– How is this market evolving?

– How to start a successful business in China?

– How to select a Chinese partner?

– Is it still cheaper and faster to operate in China?

– How is the China’s regulatory environment moving?

Because they were based on facts and past experience on the field, two panel discussions were of utmost interest:

– Entrepreneur’s perspectives: Starting and growing successful businesses in China.

– What have multinational learned about opportunities and challenges in China?


To summarize a few of the take home lessons:

– “Working with China is not a low maintenance job”.

– In China, there is an incredible strong determination to succeed and to succeed fast.

– The main stream to start a successful business is through a joint-venture.

It is still very difficult to identify a good partner. One has to be able to assess how sustainable, how reliable, how committed he will be. To quote one on the panel speaker one can recommend “Select a partner who has a lot to lose if he messes up”.

– The talent pool in China is growing very fast but again it is not simple to scout and identify the best people with the appropriate local and/or international experience.

– One needs to understand what the central and the local governments requests are, in order to propose something which fits their needs.

– The overall environment is very favorable and there is an increasing availability and affordability through central and local government support.

– Scientific innovation is raising but development of innovative drugs (first in class) is still not common because everyone is looking for fast returns.


– Chinese’s innovation has not reached the western standards mainly because its overall ecosystem has not matured and stabilized yet:

  • Activities and skills are still very scattered.
  • Private R&D investments are notoriously far too low.
  • The regulatory system is not fully transparent yet.
  • There is too little venture capital investments available.
  • Few senior entrepreneurs have paved the way for others to succeed.


It might take another decade before this ecosystem has matured enough to produce the first innovative drug: “discovered and made in China”


Nevertheless one could conclude, by again quoting a senior western executive:
             "In China everything is possible, although nothing is easy".



Author : Jean-Claude MULLER, Special Advisor,Innovation & International Relationship (I&IR)


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