Pedestrians walk in the Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li, a shopping center, in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. (Photo by Chen Hong/For China Daily)
The first accelerator for corporate property technology, or proptech, in China was launched to provide market players with innovative solutions so that property firms can leverage new technologies to expand their business.
The accelerator program, known as UrbanLab, was launched by JLL, Swire Properties and Ping An Urban Tech, and will foster and develop promising tech companies in the Chinese proptech ecosystem.
UrbanLab is the first corporate accelerator program in the Chinese mainland that focuses on property technology.
"Real estate alone... accounts for about 7 percent for China's GDP. If we add the accelerator associated activities to it, it can increase its contribution to the total GDP," said KK Fung, chief executive officer of Greater China at JLL.
"The Chinese mainland is the key growth market for Swire Properties, and it is a tech powerhouse well-known for its pioneering and tailor-made solutions," added Guy Bradley, chief executive of Swire Properties.
Proptech refers to a wide spectrum of digital and technological trends in the real estate industry such as innovative products, digital business models, smart buildings, and smart cities.
China is one of the most dynamic markets for proptech in the world, especially given the country's leadership in 5G technology. Artificial intelligence platforms for developers have been built, and AI technology behind self-driving cars is also seen as combining advanced consumer and industrial technologies.
CB Insights said proptech investment has reached $40 billion globally, and China tops the Asia-Pacific region by investing more than $1 billion into the sector.
Run by the Ping An Cloud accelerator team, UrbanLab will select six to 12 mature proptech startups. During the three-month program, participants will have an opportunity to test and refine their products in a real-world environment, namely at Swire Properties' two large-scale developments in Shanghai - HKRI Taikoo Hui and Taikoo Li Qiantanas well as at JLL and Ping An Urban Tech's projects in Shanghai.
The program's targeted technology areas are automation, analytics, smart buildings, AI, facilities management, construction, tenant experience, customer engagement and sustainability.
"We understand innovation is key for growth. Therefore, we constantly search for implementing cutting edge tech solutions to make our business more efficient and enhance customer experience," said Bradley.
The startups will be selected from JLL, Swire Properties and Ping An Group's networks. In addition to being mentored by industry leaders and experts, participants will have opportunities to connect with investors to discuss funding prospects.
"We are providing an opportunity to urban innovators to test their solutions in the Chinese mainland, specifically technology solutions that can change the urban planning, real estate and infrastructure industries," said Wei Baisong, chief technology officer at Ping An Urban Tech, a subsidiary of Chinese insurance company the Ping An Group.
Wei said they hoped to form an urban ecosystem that can benefit customers and partners in the long run, adding that "UrbanLab is a good starting point".
UrbanLab is now accepting applications until the end of August. Tech startups based in the Chinese mainland with functioning products and business models, and are trial and implementation-ready, can apply.
A lot of capital is flowing into real estate. In the next few years, experts believe the opportunities are going to increase further. Key areas of investments in China are space visualization technologies, the internet of things, AI, building information modeling, smart cities and Logitech.