Between 2017 and 2018, EU Gateway | Business Avenues ran an outstanding pilot that consisted of four business missions supporting European companies interested in doing business with the EU’s second-largest trading partner, China.
For the length of the pilot, EU Gateway to China has helped participants from EU Member States forge long-lasting relations with the relevant Chinese companies and organisations based in this promising market.
Through the Programme tried-and-true selections and business matchmaking processes, this EU-funded initiative served 153 European participants expand their company businesses to China.
EU Gateway to China was designed to complement the Trade Agenda between EU and China, following the start of negotiations for an Investment Agreement  in 2013. The two markets then vouched to nurture investments  and bilateral growth opportunities .
The choice of the Clean Technologies , Healthcare & Medical Technologies  and Environment & Water Technologies  sectors for the business missions hasn’t been arbitrary. These sectors are part of China’s largest reform policies. In 2015, it invested €130 billion in green technologies, and healthcare expenditure reached €840 billion in 2020.
What we’re trying to do with EU Gateway to China is link up to areas where we know that China itself wants to reform its economy and where there’s, therefore, demand; it’s an opportunity for us in terms of jobs and growth for European citizens. – Ellis Mathews, European External Action Service, Head of Division
The EU-funded business missions and the Programme itself provided an entire array of benefits to participants.
First off, being a part of a larger entity, the European Union, helped bring European companies credibility and prestige in interactions with Chinese mega-players.
It then helped participants understand the target market, showcase their technologies in exhibitions, receive promotion in local media and on social networks, meet targeted contacts and forge business relationships during the events.
Above all, the missions helped participants gain access to a market that is closed off and somewhat complicated to navigate, because of language and business practice clashes.
Information is power in China. It’s difficult to access information. If you have a team in place, that helps a lot. – Pirita Mikannen, Executive Vice President, TM Systems (Finland)
Doing business in China does not come without challenges.
Foreign companies are pressured to adapt to stricter market regulations and a slower business development process, because of higher costs of doing business, sluggish economic growth and high competition with already established local companies.
Nevertheless, the Programme helped EU companies overcome these issues and speed up the course to generate massive results quicker.
From 20 to 24 March 2017, the first mission  of the EU Gateway to China pilot focused on EU companies providing Clean Technologies, including biomass, biogas, energy efficiency services, air pollution control, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, recycling, and soil pollution prevention and treatment, among others.
The Ambassador of the European Union to China, kicked off the weeklong business mission  and emphasised the weight of the programme for EU-China business cooperation.
The mission covered a two-day exhibition  in Beijing, an occasion for the participants to exhibit their technologies to potential clients and partners.
French company Europlasma  was a worthy success of this business mission.
“Through EU Gateway | Business Avenues, we had the opportunity to come to China to showcase our products - we are now CHINAble .” – Benedicte Amiel, Sales & Marketing Director, Europlasma Industries (France)
Europlasma’s triumph is not an exceptional case.
Here is what other participants to this mission had to say about the way the programme impacted their businesses:
Healthcare & Medical Technologies
Healthcare & Medical Technologies were next in line to be the focus of another business mission .
This time around, a scouting mission  preceded the mission week. In May, the delegates had the occasion to better understand the market, visit the China International Medical Equipment Fair, and organise meetings with Chinese companies and associations at the Zhangjiang Technology Park.
From 4 to 8 December 2017, the business mission brought the most cutting-edge European companies  to China. The Chinese visitors raved about the new solutions for early cancer detection, analysis of cardiac data, investigation of diagnostic antibodies, medical devices for neurological rehabilitation, bionic & VR devices for medical training, and IoT solutions for healthcare.
34 companies attended the mission and had over 500 business meetings with nearly 150 Chinese companies. It was an opportunity  for members to explore various approaches to cooperate and establish agreements and joint ventures in the market.
HASOMED, a German company providing software and hardware solutions for neurological diagnostics and rehabilitation, launched a joint venture  and new product in China as a result of the mission.
Following the success of the first previous mission, EU Gateway to China continued with a second business mission  for Healthcare & Medical Technologies.
From 9 to 13 April 2018, this second mission topped and surpassed the success of the previous one. On this occasion, 42 of the finest European companies brought award-winning technologies in the healthcare & medical field to China. Local companies and organisations flooded the Sofitel Shanghai Hongqiao, to see these technologies and examine potential collaborations. 
In 2018, a German producer of ultramodern biomedical products and treatments, Inomed Medizintechnik, found success in China . Following the business mission it attended, the company gained new partners and completed new sales deals with major players on the Chinese medical product market.
In short, the request from China is there and increasing. Our business is growing, and our number of business contacts and business partners in China is also growing. - Ulrich Albicker, Market Director Asia & Pacific, inomed Medizintechnik GmbH (Germany)
Environment & Water Technologies
Next up, the business mission for Environment & Water Technologies took place between 5 and 9 June 2018 .
This sector was targeted specifically because of China’s goals to reduce pollution and promote green technologies. With many opportunities for European companies, this business mission  was a knock-out.
The mission brought to China 40 companies selling the latest solutions for the environment & water sector, like membrane technology in wastewater treatment, vacuum evaporator technology for treating industrial wastewater, smart waste sorting, high-efficiency solid waste decomposition technology, Recirculation Aquaculture Systems (RAS), and the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC).
The four missions had an impact not only on the participating companies but also on jobs and growth in Europe.
Let’s crunch some figures.
The EU Gateway to China pilot programme:
- Received 716 expressions of interest from European companies across all the sectors targeted by the business missions. Of these, 153 companies participated in the business missions (some companies had opportunity to participate more than once). Only the cream of the crop — the most innovative companies in each sector — made it on a business mission.
- Participating companies totalled a number of 1,378 useful business meetings. While spontaneous meetings still happened, most meetings were worked out before the business missions! This process ensured that each participant vetted potential interlocutors and prepared to form partnerships with local companies and strike deals on the spot.
With regards to the first two business missions to China, within 6 months:
- 77% of companies projected business growth in the target market, and 14% had at least one signed agreement or sales contract ensuing their mission participation, resulting in a rapid increased turnover growth in China.
- For 34% of the participating companies, the total number of employees in Europe increased following the mission to keep up with the growing business demands in the new market. Almost 37% expected an employee count growth post-mission.
All said and done, the EU Gateway to China pilot programme was a success. Participating companies started trade exchanges that continue to this day. Through the programme, they continue to meet other valuable connections and explore resources to expand in China and beyond. The newly forged trading relationships between the EU and China helped contribute to economic advancement and job creation in Europe.