2016 International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Kunshan Boosts Cross-Border Cooperation

Dec. 5, over 500 leading experts from high-tech industries, world-class universities, unicorn startups and multinational companies around the world convened at the 2016 International Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship held in Kunshan, China, to discuss entrepreneurship and promote cross-border cooperation.

The Conference, co-hosted by China Association of Science and Technology, Jiangsu Provincial Government and Duke University, aims at connecting overseas talents and corporates with local Chinese companies to foster cross-border collaboration, as well as boosting investment and entrepreneurship in Kunshan and beyond.

“Duke and Duke Kunshan University together used their network of alumni and friends around the world to invite over 80 companies to attend the conference and finally chose 50 companies out of them. These companies are from five cutting-edge sectors that define the competitive landscape for the 21st century. They don’t represent the current Fortune 500s, but hopefully the future Fortune 500s,” said Dr. Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan University, one of the co-organizers of the 2016 International Conference. “We are hoping that bring their research activities here, engage in technology transfer and collaboration. As the future goes on, these companies will sink deeper and deeper roots here, which will act as a catalyst that will support the goals and objectives of Kunshan’s leadership in terms of building a knowledge economy.”

Denis Simon

The day-long conference started with a plenary session that featured high-ranking government officials who applauded the significance of the conference in their speeches, as well as well-established entrepreneurs and scholars from China and the United States.

John Kao, chairman and CEO of Edgemakers, a comprehensive learning system for innovation and the related discipline of entrepreneurship, centered his keynote speech on the topic of “how to create the next generation of innovators who will change the world”. “We are in a time of VUCA – an increasingly popular acronym standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And times of change require bold innovation,” said Kao, a professor at Harvard Business School from 1982-96 and author of several best-selling books on innovation. “We believe in the importance of a new approach to innovation learning that is integrated, practice-based and purpose driven.  And we firmly believe that these capacities of innovation and entrepreneurship are learnable and teachable – and at a young age.”

John Kao

Kao is also set to establish a training center based at Duke Kunshan University to provide advanced training programs in creativity and innovation for the business community in Kunshan and beyond. “Edgemakers hopes to collaborate with universities here and with the government to provide both digital and in-classroom training. Our target is students in high school, university, and young professionals, because we want to plan seeds for the future,” he said.

 “China has been investing heavily in tech innovation in recent years, but the key to innovation is to make sure the young people can ‘get down to’ research,” said Dr. Yang Peidong, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Commercializing academic research takes time, and that is a normal pattern.”

Peidong Yang

At the five concurrent panel sessions in the afternoon, more than 100 startups in information technology, new materials, energy environmental protection, intelligent manufacturing, biology and medicine, ran roadshows to attract investments and promote collaboration. At the end of the day, Kunshan Business Incubator for Overseas Chinese Scholars signed project contracts with over 60 overseas projects including Ed. South, InnoSpring Kunshan, and Duke University’s Medblue Incubator.

Dec. 6, around 40 distinguished entrepreneurs, including current Duke students, alumni and faculty members visited the Duke Kunshan University campus, and were impressed with the superlative facility and academic resources as well as the dynamic vibe of the university. They also praised the university's ongoing commitment to creating a nurturing and diverse learning environment for its students, and to promoting cross-border S&T collaboration.