Usually real estate news stories lead off with headlines on millions of renminbi invested or thousands of square metres leased, but a big property story is unfolding piece by piece in Suzhou, and it’s driven by names like Harvard, NUS and Berkeley, instead of by brands like Vanke, Fosun and SOHO.
Ultimately, this narrative about learning may help to create the most significant innovation centre in China’s push to move up the industrial value chain.
The headline driving this innovation story this week is a recent announcement about a cooperative education program backed by George Washington University from the US, and based in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). The story contains no information on multi-million dollar investments, and merely points out that the university will set up teaching and office space in the Suzhou Dushu Lake and Science Education Innovation District in SIP.
However, according to our unofficial count here at Mingtiandi, this cooperative program with George Washington University is the 10th international education program to be announced at SIP in the last 18 months. Here are some examples from the parade of foreign universities setting up research and teaching centres at SIP recently.
- In a ceremony held on Feburary 23rd at SIP, Samsung Electronics announced a program to provide scholarships for mechanical engineering students at the Suzhou Institute of Southeast University.
- On February 21st the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology from Canada’s University of Waterloo signed an agreement on long-term cooperation in innovation and commercialization with Soochow University in Suzhou which will be based in the industrial park.
- On February 21st, the University of California at Berkeley announced a joint PhD program in nano-technology (based at SIP) with the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), that offers scholarships to students based on the condition that after graduation they return to work at SIP for one year.
- On January 30, SIP held a joint ground-breaking and opening ceremony for 24 nano-technology projects representing a total of RMB 10 billion in investment at its new nano-technology centre.
- In December 2011, America’s University of Dayton agreed to set up a research institute at SIP‘s Dushu Lake Sci-Edu Innovation Park.
- On October 24th, Harvard University signed an agreement with SIP’s BioBay and Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant Roche to create a new research and biomedical business centre in Suzhou Industrial Park.
- In November 2010, the National University of Singapore (NUS) inked an agreement with SIP to set up a research institute in the Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District.
That’s a lot of education and research programs and it has the potential to add up to some real innovation in this eastern China city.
For those of you less familiar with Suzhou Industrial Park, it is one of China’s best-known and most developed special economic zones. While ten years ago many of the companies there were making circuit boards or stamping things from sheet metal, the development, which is jointly operated by the governments of China and Singapore has been transforming itself into a centre for service industries. Moving from factory space to business park offices.
So while there has been talk by numerous business park developers around China about setting up the next Silicon Valley, it seems like Suzhou Industrial Park is serious about supporting the education programs that help to build great high tech companies.
And that should be the surest way to fill some business park space.