An increasing number of young Chinese graduates are setting up their own businesses after graduation to take advantage of the United Kingdom's startup environment, which has experienced a boom in recent years. [Special coverage]
Many of them are using their links with China as a key advantage for their business, often expanding into China once they get started in the UK.
One such example is Oxford Space Structures, an Oxford-based, technology-intensive startup that used aerospace technology to create SpaceCot, a user-friendly baby cot that can be deployed and retracted in seconds, compared with conventional cots, which normally require up to 10 minutes to fold away.
After only two years, Oxford Space Structures has already attracted 200,000 pounds ($310,000) in private investor capital. The investors include Tom Singh, founder of the New Look chain of fashion stores and a stakeholder in JoJo Maman Bebe, a retailer of maternity clothes, baby clothes and nursery products, as well as Ben Gordon, ex-CEO of Mothercare. These retailers have not only contributed capital, but will offer the SpaceCot a good route to market when it is launched early next year.
Chen Fujia, 30, founder of Oxford Space Structures, has a PhD from the University of Oxford. She once aspired to be a scientist, but an opportunity came along in 2012 when the European Space Agency held an academic competition that allowed participants to transform technology into commercial products, and she entered the competition with her SpaceCot idea.
Since then, Chen has worked on making SpaceCot commercially viable, with the help in the UK of a team of experts in research, development and product design. For its manufacturing, the company ventured to China.
Like Chen, 30-year-old entrepreneur Tara Shen has also chosen to manufacture some of her company's products in China, with a view to both leveraging China's manufacturing capability and showing the world the strengths of Chinese manufacturing.
With business partner Efrat Rassin, Shen has set up a fashion brand in London that specializes in eyewear and accessories. Shen is a graduate of the London College of Fashion, where she got a master's degree in retail fashion.
Shen, who worked in China's fashion industry for seven years, realized that she has a strong entrepreneurial side and decided to try something different. Later this year, her brand, Rassin & Shen, will launch its first product line of eyeglasses chains made like fashion necklaces.
Chen and Shen are representative of an increasing number of young Chinese graduates setting up their own businesses in the UK in recent years. This trend occurs against the background of the UK itself becoming a much more entrepreneurial country, driven by young people's creativity.
According to a 2013 report by data research company Duedil and the small-business network Enterprise Nation, the number of entrepreneurs below age 35 in the UK grew from 145,104 in 2006 to 247,049 in 2013.
Such a booming environment for startups in the UK is very attractive for Chinese entrepreneurs, who believe that in the UK they can gain valuable experience and support in the UK that is not available in China.
"I believe that at the early stages of business expansion, it is good to be in a market that allows us to inspect the global market in strategy creation, and in the meantime we can keep an eye on the Chinese market," said 24-year-old Lin Zhenyu, who came to the UK to earn his master's degree in computer science at University College London in 2013.
Lin is currently running his own business, Sensory Media, which focuses on using computer science technology to create artistic effects. The first product it launched is an LED lighting system that helps restaurants and bars to automatically synchronize their lighting and music.
With its key technology already completed, Sensory Media is now looking to attract additional funding. Lin said several big China-based investors are in discussion with his team and are interested in investing in the technology and taking it to China.
Sensory Media, aware of the scale of China's domestic consumer market, is looking to develop more China-specific products, Lin said. "For example, we could convert the lighting system used in restaurants and pubs in the West to karaokes in China."