2019 02 12

Opening Up China’s Vast Market

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Dry honey, non-thermal pasteurisation of fruit juices, sustainable traffic solutions for cities, smart devices that help the old and the disabled and an app that can identify changes in the human voice – these are just a small sample of the innovative products and technology that Lithuanian scientists presented from 28 May to 1 June at the international CIFTIS commerce and services fair in China.    

The Lithuanian scientific community, united by Open R&D Lithuania, the largest Baltic R&D network, once again participated in the international industry fair and presented their research services at a joint display stand. Lithuanian innovation generated a lot of interest this year and many important steps were taken towards a closer cooperation with the Chinese innovation industry. The Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA) and the CIFTIS Organisational Committee signed a memorandum that is very significant for both MITA’s Open R&D Lithuania network and Lithuanian business in general, ensuring the continued presentation of Lithuania’s innovation potential in China and its search for partners, investors and clients.

During a meeting with the Beijing Municipality Science and Technology Commission, the Lithuanian delegation discussed possibilities for a closer partnership in the field of science and technology: from accelerators for startups and funding of joint Lithuanian and Chinese projects to organising research and business missions. A trilateral cooperation agreement is already being drafted between the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU), Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) and the Central Medical University in China. A bilateral cooperation agreement is also in the works between VDU and the Chinese Agricultural University in the academic and research field.

More Dry Honey Wanted

In addition to the industry fair, the latest R&D solutions and technology offered by the Open R&D Lithuania network were also presented at an international conference co-hosted with the Chinese Science and Technology Park and during later meetings with Chinese companies.

As told by Professor Saulius Mickevičius, dean of the VDU Faculty of Natural Sciences, several invitations were received from other universities to come and discuss potential areas of cooperation because there was great interest in the products and technology developed by VDU scientists. Dry honey, to name an example. The Chinese were interested in how they could purchase the product in larger quantities, and contact information was exchanged. Dry yoghurt, non-thermal pasteurisation of fruit juices, the application of electroporation and sonoporation for the transferral of medicine and other bioactive materials to cells, and technology for cleaning sewage also attracted attention.

At the China Agricultural University, possibilities for applying food technology developed by VDU scientists in the industrial sector were discussed. There are also plans to sign cooperation agreements in the area of academic mobility for student exchanges and research.

Sustainable Traffic Flows, Safety in Old Age

Of the technology and research presented by Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU), Professor Gintaras Stauskis of the Department of Urban Planning emphasised the innovation that interested Chinese developers and capital raisers the most. One of these areas was the organisation of sustainable traffic flow in cities. How can different types of traffic streams be combined: cars, public transport and – what is a relatively novel phenomenon in China – carsharing and carpooling.

“Another area the Chinese representatives were interested in, judging by their questions, was social change in society, for example, ageing and the challenges that come with it, equipment that makes the lives of older or disabled people easier, various technological additions,” recalls Professor Stauskis, “We have two different VGTU divisions working in this area, and this has already produced good results: devices that allow the blind to find their bearings in the environment or translate sign language into words, aides for movement and independent living.”

Adapting Products for the Chinese Market

In China, LSMU presented various health research services and innovative solutions.  However, the most important products offered, according to Laima Matusevičienė, head of the LSMU Development Service, were various medical IT solutions. For example, LSMU has been collecting clinical data – voice recordings – for over two decades. Based on this data, a group of scientists led by Professor Virgilijus Ulozas, createdVoice Screen, an app for iOS devices, that can recognise changes in the human voice and, if necessary, recommend a referral to a specialist. Voice Screencan already be purchased on the App Store for a little more than a euro.

“We presented this product with the aim of finding partners – doctors and IT specialists that could help adapt the app for use in the Chinese market. The product is language-specific.  At the moment, it can be used by native Lithuanian or English speakers,” explains the LSMU representative.

Negotiations are already under way with the Central Medical University regarding further product development and terms of cooperation. The expectation is that a preliminary agreement will be signed this month, in time to adapt the product for the Chinese market this year.

Exceeded Expectations

Representatives of the Chinese science and business communities were also interested in various pre-clinical and clinical trials conducted by LSMU. According to Laima Matusevičienė, head of the LSMU Development Service, Chinese innovators often see Lithuania as a window into the rest of the European Union, both with regard to registering and selling various products in the EU and implementing further development plans. A partnership is also possible in this direction. The registration of Chinese-made food supplements and drugs in the EU requires substantial testing. LSMU could offer its services, earning income for itself and attracting foreign investment to Lithuania.

“China’s economy is one of the most powerful in the world for good reason. Its potential is very impressive. It exceeded all of our expectations. We believe that China will be one of the countries with which we will definitely form a partnership,” maintains the LSMU representative.

Ecological Solutions

During the visit to China, Dr. Paulius Pavelas Danilovas of the Department of Polymer Chemistry and Technology at the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) presented a biodegradable packaging developed by KTU scientists. The packaging is made of renewable resources and is suitable for carrying food. Used packaging can be discarded as compost waste and will degrade into environmentally-safe compounds.

Active food packaging developed by the KTU team protects products from going bad. They contain antimicrobial compounds or antioxidants that enter the environment of the food product and prevent the growth of microbes and the oxidation process. Thus, food products are protected from external impact and they can have a longer shelf-life.

The KTU scientists also developed a sticker for household use that contains active compounds which can prolong the shelf-life of a product. All that you need to do is stick the sticker inside the food packaging.

The water disinfecting technology patented by KTU can also be used both by industry and regular consumers. As emphasised by Dr. Danilovas, it guarantees long-term protection against microbiological pollution. Not only does it neutralise micro-organisms, it also prevents them from entering the water in the first place. If they do enter it, they cannot survive.

“They were very interested in the packaging. People asked us lots of questions and we even gave a few interviews to TV journalists. The translators the Lithuanian embassy set us up with could barely keep up – ‘They want to hear about your packaging again’ they would say,” recalls the KTU representative.

A Broad Range of Technology

Jonas Klimantavičius, a researcher of the Material Science and Electrical Engineering Division at the Center for Physical Science and Technology (FTMC), and his colleague Dr. Romualdas Trusovas, from the Laser Technology Division of the FTMC, travelled to China to introduce the Center itself, the opportunities it offers for developing technology and the services offered by its open access centres. The potential of the FTMC sparked the interest of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp. (CASIC). They discussed possibilities for collaboration on joint projects and in the development of technology that would be useful to CASIC.

“We have a lot of serious work ahead of us before we reach any specific agreements, but we already know that CASIC is interested in the sensors that can detect potential defects in various types of transportation, for example, planes and trains. The work of the China Aerospace Corporation spans from rocket development and launching to aircraft and high-speed trains,” explains the FTMC representative.

As noted by the Chinese representatives themselves, the range of technology offered by the FTMC is very broad – from lasers and chemical technology, to biotechnology, textiles and magnetic field measurement. For example, one Chinese metal manufacturer was attracted by FTMC-developed equipment for managing magnetic metal welding processes and possibilities for its application. Of course, a lot of interest was shown in laser technology, a field in which Lithuania has worldwide renown. After the presentation, many personal conversations revolved around the topic.

“We received a letter from CASIC confirming that they wish to begin talks about our further collaboration,” reveals Klimantavičius, “We’ve also received replies with assurances of further cooperation from the Beijing-based technology transferral company ChinaWorth Global Tech Consulting and the Shanghai-based METALAB, which seeks to facilitate the integration of technology and business through a platform that brings together Chinese companies with the most advanced technologies in the world.”

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