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Young Chinese talent put in incubator in UK

2015-02-16 15:52 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing

China's rapidly growing economy has given rise to a large contingent of young talent keen on becoming entrepreneurs, many of whom have found a market or the right support to realize their dreams in the United Kingdom.

Many of these young Chinese have blazed their own path in the UK not only because of the country's open business environment and entrepreneurial spirit, but also through the support of a number of government-led and private-sector programs.

The Sirius program is one example of the UK's helping hand. Initiated by UK Trade & Investment, a government agency that works with businesses based in the country to help them expand to international markets, it gives young entrepreneurs a wide range of support, including mentoring, office space provisions and access to networking opportunities as well as working visas in the UK.

Marian Sudbury, director of global operations and investment at UKTI, says the Sirius program was launched to encourage overseas graduates to continue to contribute to the UK's creative and business environments after graduation.

"It's mainly targeted at overseas graduates. We recognize that young people are a great contributor to tomorrow's businesses, and the best way is to have a mixture of domestic and overseas businesses," Sudbury says.

She says the UK has an entrepreneurial culture because of its diverse ethnic population. In addition, the government has various incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, such as tax breaks for angel investors.

According to research published by the Centre for Entrepreneurs in March 2014, about 500,000 people from 150 countries had launched businesses in the UK, generating 14 percent of total jobs in the nation.

The Sirius program also helps the UK retain talented students after they graduate from its universities, Sudbury says.

"We do know there are a lot of foreign entrepreneurs coming to the UK. We are targeting those with specific talents and skills, who can create idea-driven enterprises in the UK."

The program, which began in 2012, was created after the aggregation of advice from various government representatives, academics, entrepreneurs and schools to make sure the program was efficient and would give participants the support they need.

Sudbury says Chinese students on the Sirius program are intelligent, well-educated, diligent and adaptable to working with people from different countries, though she adds that challenges include the ability to work together as a team.

"They are model participants in our program."

Lin Zhenyu, 24, is one of many Chinese participants in the Sirius program. He leads a team of five in a startup called Sensory Media, which helps restaurants automatically match their music to the lighting in a room using an LED lighting and application system.

Lin, who came to the UK to attain his master's degree in computer science at University College London in 2013, started working on the idea during his studies and later established Sensory Media with four students.

Two central London restaurants have since bought Sensory Media's product and Lin says his team is in the process of registering the technology's copyrights, after which they will focus on broadening the product's sales channels to more restaurants and bars.

Sensory Media, Lin says, will develop smaller scale products such as a single light bulb that will apply the same technology to homes.

Lin, who hails from Zhejiang province, says the entrepreneurial spirit of the region's people instilled in him the desire to start his own business as a child.

"I've always thought this is what I should do after graduating. It just came naturally."

Sensory Media was borne out of two failed attempts to establish two businesses - one focusing on LED technology and the other on web applications - during his undergraduate studies at Zhejiang University as well as from his love of music. Lin plays a number of instruments well.

In his current role as an entrepreneur, Lin says he is constantly learning new things and adapting to changes every day. In addition to managing the team, developing new technologies, Lin is also in charge of sales and marketing.

"We hope to develop the best technology in this sector and constantly make improvements to it through customer feedback, so that we will maintain our competitiveness in this industry," Lin says.

Another young Chinese entrepreneur is Lesley Zhang, 32, from Shanxi province.

In September 2013, she attended the Global Graduate Entrepreneurs' Festival in Manchester that was initiated by UK Trade and Investment. After meeting what would eventually turn out to be her business partner at the conference, the two worked to turn the concept of fashion rentals into an online venture. They created Rentez-Vous, a clothes-sharing platform for women who want to access high quality fashion without having to pay full prices.

"Basically, we allow women to rent clothes to one another and rent designer creations for a fraction of the price. Beyond peer-to-peer sharing, we are a unique marketing and customers acquisition tool for fashion designers and brands - by renting out their collections, they can get more awareness, more market surveys and sell more," Zhang says.

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