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How it all started … 

The founding partners of Humboldt-Tech Bridge, Ferdinand Bartels and Volker Hofmann, knew each other through their collaborative work for the Innovation Network for Advanced Materials (INAM). In 2019, on a business trip to China along with European startups and SMEs, they observed a strong curiosity for the Chinese market and country, but at the same time sensed some insecurities and lack of knowledge by the participating entrepreneurs. What they were missing was better preparation.

One year later at the Asia Berlin Summit 2020, Volker Hofmann announced the first call for the Bridge to China program – a market decoding program tailored to science-based startups. Why science-based startups? Because those are the startups we know best and where we see the greatest market potential. 

Volker Hofmann at AsiaBerlinSummit 2021 on the first birthday of ‘Bridge to China’

Humboldt-Tech Bridge is a joint venture between Humboldt-Innovation and InnoEU-Tech Bridge and combines competencies from both science and industry. We are proud to say that we work closely with the startup services of all Berlin universities and can call Bridge to China the first internationalization program the startup services offer to their startup teams.

We launched Bridge to China because of the innovative potential for the Chinese market within the academic startup ecosystem. “We believe that startups with a scientific background have a strong starting point to expand to China. However, they might face some unexpected hurdles such as protecting their IP in a foreign market or struggling with a different business culture. Therefore, our goal is to prepare them in the best possible way – not only do we want to showcase possible entry points in the Chinese market and the vast range of possibilities China has to offer but also equip them for possible obstacles.” (Volker Hofmann)

Going back to the beginning …

In March 2020, in the middle of preparing the agenda for its first Bridge to China batch, the COVID-19 pandemic came. We had to ask ourselves: How do we reach a broad audience of Asia enthusiasts in the middle of a pandemic? What would be the perfect opportunity to launch our program to the public? The decision was pretty easy: The Asia Berlin Summit 2020. Despite the crisis, we could still celebrate the birthday of our program and thanks to the Asia Berlin Summit team Volker Hofmann announced the first Bridge to China batch on the summit.

Since then, we ran the first batch with 11 science-based startups that are eager to decode the Chinese market with our help. They took part in online seminars on doing business with China, had digital 1on1 mentoring sessions with our China experts from different fields, such as intellectual property protection, business culture or specific industries. We even organized online networking events with cocktails and beer for the participating teams. And finally, the most promising startups then got the opportunity to pitch their business in front of Chinese investors and potential business partners from Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing – all virtual of course. Check out our conference video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Ma4UzsYgc). The event was a great success, however, due to the pandemic we couldn’t yet keep the promise to fly with our three winning teams to China – but we hope to repeat that soon. 

At the Asia Berlin Summit 2021 we celebrated our “first birthday” and hosted a satellite event on “AI startups solving industry challenges”. As part of the event we built the digital bridge between the AI Campus Berlin and Shanghai’s Zhangjiang AI Island.

What happens next …

After our first successful online batch of the Bridge to China program we are proud to say that the second batch with new features and exciting events has just started! We can now reveal that we recently opened our own Humboldt-Tech Bridge Accelerator on the AI Island at the Zhangjiang Science Park in Shanghai. Startups participating in this batch will get the chance to use the office space there next to companies such as Microsoft, IBM or Alibaba.

The current batch is running but we have good news for all robotics startups: you can still apply for our international online conference taking place on December 8. There you will get the chance to pitch your startup to Chinese investors, corporates and potential business partners and win your ticket to China. Apply here (https://www.f6s.com/bridgetochina/apply)

For those interested in China, but still wondering, we recently launched our podcast show “Bridge to China” (https://humboldt-tech-bridge.com/podcast/) with which we want to answer the most pressing questions startups have regarding China. For that we invited people with vast knowledge and long-term experience with China to our show, those are entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, politicians and other China-experts.

Want to be updated on all the fun we are having at AsiaBerlin? Follow us on LinkedinInstagram, and Twitter for regular updates on all AsiaBerlin activities.

Friederike Laun

Friederike Laun

Startup Alumni Managerin an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin