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November 19, 2015

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‘Innovated in China’ is new industry motto

ZHU Xiaoxun, who joined Siemens last year, is a senior vice president of Siemens China and head of Siemens Corporate Technology China. He earned his PhD and MS/BS in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA, in 1994 and 1997.

Zhu is a prolific inventor and key driver for innovation in multiple technology areas. He has over 250 US patents to date on topics such as laser signal processing, dimensioning and tracking algorithms, wireless devices, and imaging-based data collection devices.

Shanghai Daily caught up with him recently on how innovation will drive China’s economy.

Q: Given the high environmental standards set under the “New Normal,” how can innovation generate momentum for companies?

A: China’s economy has shifted gear from the previous high speed to a moderate speed growth. My understanding is that a lower, but more qualitative economic growth pattern characterizes the new phase of “New Normal”. Apart from changing the economic growth pattern, the economic structure will also be improved and upgraded. In the past, investment was a key driver for economic growth. Now, the “New Normal” also calls for optimizing current economic structure and strengthening innovation.

In the Internet Age, consumers get more and more accustomed to Internet thinking and IT technology, creating pressures on traditional industrial players to meet the challenges brought by IT development. In fierce market competition, whoever satisfies the customer needs best, will win an upper hand in the market.

Q: Could innovation make a difference amid a slowing economy in China?

A: Although China’s economy is growing slower than before, it is approaching a new normal of 6-7 percent growth, which remains a relatively high speed in the world. Data indicate China is still an attractive market for foreign investment.

Meanwhile, China is facing a mega-trend like globalization, urbanization, demographic change, climate change and digitalization that requires market players to achieve higher productivity, efficiency and quality. Realizing these targets relies on technology innovation to improve China’s all-round competence in the world’s market.

Q: How do you predict the trend of manufacturing in China?

A: China’s manufacturing industry is developing fast over the past years. “Made in China 2025” is the Chinese version of Industry 4.0, it’s the first action plan of China to become a strong manufacturing country with the “innovation-driven, quality-first, green development, structural optimizing and talent-based” principle.

China’s manufacturing industry is experiencing a significant transition from “Made in China” to “Innovated in China.”

As a trusted technology partner ready to support China during the course of future manufacturing and industry digitalization, we can help manufacturers enhance production efficiency and flexibility, shortening the time-to-market of new products.

Q: How do you see the contribution to China’s economy by the localization of foreign enterprises?

A: Firstly, with diverse market needs and customers who are willing to try new things, I think China is an ideal place to develop world-class innovations.

Our emphasis is to locally design and develop the right products and solutions for the Chinese market to meet the local customers’ needs and integrate into local innovation system, and also to use China’s advantages to develop technologies in the country for global application.

Siemens has established innovation centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Wuxi, which are dedicated to driving local innovation industry with needs-driven innovation projects and to achieve mutual development with local government and local partners. If the foreign-funded enterprises can achieve the “Indigenous Innovation” in China, it would make great difference to Chinese economy.

Q: How do you view the gap regarding innovation between China’s coastal and inland regions? Will a balance make a difference to the economy?

A: There’s evident R&D improvement in both eastern and western regions of China. With more than 32,000 employees and 77 operating companies, Siemens business is widely spread in China, and we highly appreciate the friendly investment environment created by local governments both in eastern and western regions

From R&D, we also made efforts to improve local R&D competence through university cooperation across China and shorten the gap between the east and the west.

Meanwhile, our forces are also working in many different parts of China. Top-notch innovators are working in world-class Siemens China innovation labs to contribute to China’s “Indigenous Innovation.”

Q: How will smart manufacturing redefine future landscape?

A: I think there is dual tasks ahead for China to realize the blueprint of “Made in China 2025”: to develop from labor-intensive towards technology-intensive on the one hand, and gain global competitiveness by implementing digital solutions on the other.

It calls for faster decision making, more flexible processes and to some extent gradually changing the ways factories operate. From people perspective, I believe that talents and their expertise will continue to be a key factor for future of manufacturing. Even though we will enter a more automated age with smart data, we still need innovation from people in product design, production process and productivity measurement. We need human being to analyze the data to improve the productivity.

In future manufacturing, there will be higher requirement for engineering talents, meaning they will no longer do simple mechanical operation, but become a creative mentor, planner and supervisor.

Q: How will Made in China 2025, Belt and Road initiative boost innovation among companies?

A: “Made in China 2025” lays down the roadmap of the first 10 years of a three-decade macro planning, aiming at transforming China from a manufacturing giant to a world manufacturing power.

It emphasizes on the overarching direction of innovation-driven, intelligent and green manufacturing with prioritized areas such as advanced rail equipment, high-efficiency power equipment and high performance medical instrument etc, in which Siemens boasts leading technology and solutions.

For the “One belt, One Road” strategy, it implies strong focus on going global and there will be US$40 billion fund to drive the export and overseas expansion of Chinese companies.

This is the very important initiative and growth opportunity for Chinese companies in the global market.


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