China's Innovation Incubators: Platforms for Partnerships

This report explores the potential for partnerships between incubators and accelerators in China and those in Canada. Its point of departure is the successful partnership between Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone incubator and Zone Startups India developed at the Bombay Stock Exchange Institute in collaboration with DMZ. Can this kind of partnership work with China?

The report looks at four models of incubators found in both China and Canada, and finds that there are already significant collaborations happening. The models include:

  • large, well-funded incubators that have buildings where they strive to house numerous start-ups
  • incubators and accelerators for more mature companies
  • university-based incubators and unique “coffee” incubators in China
  • makerspaces that house small companies and individuals who make their products in situ with high-tech equipment like 3D printers

The Government of China is placing increasing focus on incubators and accelerators as an important engine of growth for their economy. This includes significant financial support and substantive policy direction to their “incubator industry,” as well as high-profile visits of top leaders to incubators to signal their support for the sector. Canada too has been putting resources into incubators to support these innovation intermediaries — but is it enough for Canada to be a significant partner for China?

The report concludes with Considerations for governments in both China and Canada in formulating new policies and financial priorities, and Considerations for any incubators or accelerators that are considering entering into partnerships with counterparts in the other country, or deepening partnerships that they already have.  This is an emerging vehicle for innovation in both countries, and an opportunity for incubators and start-ups — under the right conditions.