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Suzhou FTZ fuels tech innovation

By WANG HAO and SHI JING in Suzhou, Jiangsu CHINA DAILY Updated: 2020-09-11
An aerial view of the Suzhou Free Trade Zone Area, an important constituent of the Jiangsu FTZ. [Photo/Xinhua]

Biomedicine, AI companies flock to the Jiangsu-based commercial venue

Following several innovative policies, the Suzhou Area of the China (Jiangsu) Pilot Free Trade Zone is striding toward its goal of growing into a world first-class high-tech park.

The Suzhou FTZ Area was launched on Aug 30 last year, and it is an important constituent of the Jiangsu FTZ together with Lianyungang and Nanjing areas. Covering about 60.15 square kilometers-half of the total area of the Jiangsu FTZ-the Suzhou FTZ Area is mainly located in the Suzhou Industrial Park, which is a key incubator of high-tech industries.

To date, the Suzhou FTZ Area has formulated 132 innovative policies since it was officially launched last year, of which 14 have been adopted all over Jiangsu province. Two innovative measures, including the management practices of medical devices imported for R&D purposes as well as a smart logistics service platform, have been rated as "Best Practice Cases" of the State Council's pilot program of deepening the innovative development of the services trade.

During the launching ceremony of the Suzhou FTZ Area last August, a synergetic development agreement was signed among the FTZ administrative committees of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, which aims at serving the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region.

According to Ding Lixin, director of the administrative committee of the Suzhou FTZ Area, the number of successful innovative policies conducted in the Shanghai FTZ are best references for the Suzhou FTZ Area.

With continued efforts to develop the manufacturing industry and further optimize the Area's outbound economic model, the Suzhou FTZ Area can come up with more innovative policies by working more closely with the Shanghai FTZ, he said.

Business vibrancy has been boosted by these policies. Over the past 12 months, more than 29,000 new companies have set up offices in the Suzhou FTZ Area, with the total registered capital amounting to 85.2 billion yuan ($12.5 billion).The area has also attracted some 948 technology projects, among which 81 percent are from the emerging industries of biomedicine, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The one-year development was bumpy. Four months after the Area was unveiled, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world economy hard, holding up international trade to a great extent.

But foreign companies' confidence in the area was not shaken. In 12 months' time, a total of 319 new foreign companies have been registered in the Suzhou FTZ area. The amount of utilized foreign capital exceeded $1.7 billion by the end of August, up 131 percent year-on-year.

Foreign companies' continued investment in the Suzhou FTZ Area has demonstrated their confidence in the area. A total of 100 major projects were finalized with the local administrative body on the first anniversary of the area, a ceremony for which was held on Aug 29.

Projects expected to launch construction or operation in the area in the next few years are valued at around 50 billion yuan, including big names such as Zeiss, SGS and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Swedish medical technology provider Getinge Group is among them. As a world leading provider of extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, Getinge will invest more than 100 million yuan in its facilities located in the Suzhou FTZ Area, with eventual annual output estimated at around 500 million yuan, said Liu Shukun, general manager of Maquet Medical Equipment (Suzhou) Co Ltd-the company responsible for the production of Getinge products in China.

A production base for ECMO machines in the area, construction for which was launched at the end of August, will be a major investment focus of the company, Liu said.

Meanwhile, Getinge will also renovate at the end of this year its 600-square-meter office area into a technology service center to provide technology training services for hospitals in the Asia Pacific.

"We are quite confident in new investment in the Suzhou FTZ Area given the favorable business policies, the protection of intellectual property rights and the sufficient supply of talent here," Liu added.

"Needs of foreign companies vary from one to another. But the local administrative body is always there to take companies' suggestions and requirements, coming up with needed policies with high efficiency.

There should be more FTZs in China as they can create more impetus for economic growth and improve people's lives and education so that a virtuous cycle will result," he said.

Zhu Yimin, deputy head of Jiangsu's Department of Commerce, said company demand should be the top priority when the FTZ administrative body formulates reform and innovative policies. It is only when companies' problems are addressed that the FTZ can seek sustained development in general, Zhu said.

When it comes to the Suzhou FTZ Area, more breakthroughs should be made regarding companies' cross-border financing, protection of IPR, cross-border finance and offshore trade, said Lan Shaomin, Party secretary of Suzhou.

"The Suzhou FTZ Area should lead the city's industrial transformation so that Suzhou can more actively participate in international cooperation and competition, moving to the higher end of the global value chain," Lan said.