Posted on February 3, 2017 by staff

China sees UK as gateway to European tech – but only London


Tech firms in China see the UK as the gateway to the rest of Europe but struggle to see beyond London, according to a specialist solicitor.

Edward Boal, deputy head of digital media and technology for Gregg Latchams, recently returned from a trip to the east.

He believes there is “a real opportunity in China” as many firms want a slice of the European tech cake.

Boal told a BusinessCloud podcast: “China’s a really fascinating place. It was my first time there, and I was there for the best part of two weeks.

“We met a variety of businesses – tech and non-tech – and they all want to access European technology.

“In China their main challenge is moving up the value chain with the technology and the business systems that they have.

“And they perceive the UK very much as the gateway to Europe.”

But businesses based outside of the London bubble must go for the hard-sell, or explain themselves in relative terms to the capital.

The Britsol-based solicitor explained: “When you drill down into that and you start to discuss the UK you realise very quickly it’s focused on London, and for the very obvious reason that London is a huge part of the UK’s brand appeal in the East.

“If you’re a student, yes you may come to Bristol, and certainly Bristol has a very strong Chinese community, but London is really regarded by China as where everything is happening.

“When you mention you’re from Bristol, you have to explain every single time that’s approximately an hour-and-a-half away by train. Then it seems a little less unknown.

“If you say that you’re based in the west of England that means absolutely nothing. Then whenever you explain we have the fastest-growing digital cluster outside of London, they begin to take a real interest.”

Although cities without the mass appeal of London may still struggle for a while, Boal believes the landscape is changing, as Chinese tech firms get more used to the UK.

He added: “We’ve actually seen, not in Bristol, but certainly in the Midlands and in Oxford and Cambridge, Chinese companies acquiring VR and gaming companies on quite a substantial scale.”

Edward Boal was speaking to BusinessCloud as part of a Bristol roundtable event sponsored by Gregg Latchams.