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'Little giants' enjoy outsized innovation role

By LI JIAYING | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-31 09:26

Visitors check out robots of Iplusmobot Technology Co Ltd during an international logistics technology expo in Shanghai in November 2020. [Photo/China Daily]

China will further beef up efforts to incubate more small and medium-sized enterprises specializing in niche industries with cutting-edge technologies in order to boost the country's core global competitiveness, authorities said.

During the process of advancing these goals, large enterprises' leading role should be given full play to better promote communication, integration and development among companies of different scales, said Jin Zhuanglong, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China's top industry regulator, during a news conference early this month.

Iplusmobot Technology Co Ltd, a Hangzhou, Zhejiang province-based autonomous mobile robot company, was declared a "little giant" company by the MIIT last year for its self-developed logistics automatic technology and digital and intelligent products. Little giants are SMEs that not only specialize in pioneering core sci-tech innovation, but also command relatively high market share and huge development potential.

Iplusmobot has gained an upper hand from global tech company Lenovo's Solutions and Services Group and Lenovo Capital, who have utilized their global sales networks to broaden Iplusmobot's sales channels, shared overseas development wisdom and offered after-sales operational and maintenance support to the robot company to promote growth. In return, the cooperation has also enabled Lenovo to integrate Iplusmobot's products and technologies into its own industry solutions and provide innovative and more complete robot solutions for its clients worldwide.

Allowing efficient involvement of large companies' relevant complete supply chains, sales channels, service systems, talent and other advantages can help empower their small and medium-sized counterparts to develop their business faster and establish a recognizable brand image. At the same time, SMEs can also serve as a complement to technological innovation, corporate culture, strategic development and industry ecology, Lenovo said.

It has led to a win-win situation. We have seen two-way benefits through cooperation and mutual empowerment, Lenovo said.

However, there are still many cases where SMEs are regarded in less than complementary ways and are seen as mere receivers of one-way resources and largesse from large established companies. This is a misunderstanding and SMEs should be the main body of scientific and technological innovation because they tend to have the highest level of innovative vibrancy, Wang Jian, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and also chairman of the technology steering committee at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, told the China Economic Herald.

Digitalization will be of key importance to SMEs' self-innovation and high-quality development. SMEs should be encouraged to realize digital transformation, corporate transformation and eventually, industrial upgrading, Wang said.

Targeting high-tech niche sectors has been a major road taken by many SMEs in China. Last year, the country cultivated more than 70,000 small and medium-sized companies specializing in niche industries with cutting-edge technologies, including 8,997 "little giant" enterprises. Such companies accounted for 59 percent of last year's initial public offerings in the A-share market and a total of more than 1,300 have been listed on A-share boards so far, accounting for 27 percent of the aggregate listed number, said the MIIT.

This year, the country aims to push the number higher to reach 80,000 such SMEs on the basis of 70,000 such SMEs last year, with about 100 relevant industrial clusters to be formed through continuous support and guidance from authorities, Jin said.

The goals are expected to be achieved by providing a further optimized development environment backed by a series of supportive policies, promoting better resource allocation and exchange and mutual support among companies of different scales, thus constructing more advanced industrial clusters and service systems as well as offering deeper-level financial support, the minister said.

More international cooperation opportunities, such as overseas expos, are also expected to boost SMEs' global footprint, he added.

In February, the MIIT kicked off the selection of the fifth batch of little giants.

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