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Feather the Nest: from Government- to Market-led Incubators at SIP
Last Updated: 2015-10-29 11:25 | CE.cn
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Over the last decade about 1,700 businesses have been incubated in Suzhou International Science Park (SISPARK).

In the early years, it was government-run incubators such as SISPARK that helped start-ups and small-sized enterprises find space and funding in fields such as information and communications technology (ICT), software development, biotech and digital entertainment.

"We called them the NEST," says Barry Yang, chairman of Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), a multi-billion industrial park set up in 1994 in the city west of Shanghai by the Singapore and Chinese governments. "Our view was that only when there are nests in place is it possible to attract the birds."

"We launched between eight and ten government-operated incubators, and they carried out many different functions such as providing space, funds, labs, everything," Yang explains. "But by 2012-2013, the market was mature enough for us to nurture yet a different type of incubator here. We call them market-driven incubators."

Market-driven incubators are able to do a better job than government operated ones, he says, because "they have good focus, they are able to provide far more sophisticated training, and above all, they are able to nurture 'from zero to one' type of ventures."

"So we switched to provide services and support to these types of incubators, rather than continuing to establish government-operated incubators any more," he says.

Today the park boasts about forty different market-driven incubators -- an unqualified success.

"SISPARK is more focused on nurturing the new-generation incubators, so we view ourselves now as an 'incubator of incubators,'" says Nelson You, deputy director of SISPARK's Corporate Affairs Centre.

Li Feiyuan, director of the information development division of SIP's Bureau of Science and Technology, points out that so far, market-driven incubators in the Jinji Lake Startup Corridor (also known as InnoCorridor) have incubated 277 startups, 37 of which have succeeded in raising 340 million renminbi in venture capital.

By 2020, the target is to have built a nest of more than 100 market-driven incubators with a market value of more than 30 billion renminbi and that will offer services ranging from facilities (broadband/internet access and data storage) to financial advisory services (matchmaking between start-ups and investors) as well as legal services and intellectual property transaction services.

The incubators will also assist startups with testing, evaluation, and accreditation services as well as tech-transfer services; labs with facilities and equipment for hardware and software resources; and make introductions to universities, research institutions and larger corporations.

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