To counter its serious problems with air pollution, scarcity of natural resources and climate change, China is committed to heavily invest in clean technology projects, becoming the largest market for clean technology products and services  worldwide in recent years.
How was this possible?
Clean Technologies have been a primary focus in the Nation’s governmental programmes, including the 13th Five Year Plan that pursued to “hasten the improvement of the natural environment”.
In line with China’s plan to invest in the Clean Technologies sector, EU Gateway | Business Avenues organised a pilot EU-funded business mission for this sector in 2017.
From 20 to 24 March 2017, the Programme took 39 promising European companies  to new heights in Beijing and helped them set up new business collaborations in the Chinese market. With logistical and financial support, the participant companies managed to get impressive results.
Here are some numbers from that mission:
- Out of the 196 expressions of interest received from companies looking to expand to China, only 52 of the most advanced companies in Europe were selected to take part in the mission, thus ensuring the quality of the offer “made in the EU”.
- 530 Chinese companies visited the European companies during the exhibition days. Adding to this number, even more guests from prominent companies in the sector attended the networking event hosted by the European Union that helped the participants to get introduced to new business contacts, potential partners, and colleagues.
- When it comes to the reasons why the Asian companies visited the exhibition in China, 33%* were reportedly looking for joint R&D opportunities, 29%* were looking for clients, 23%* were looking for local agents, 17%* for joint production, 14%* for master distribution agreements, 12%* for production contracting, 10%* for service outsourcing or BPO, 10%* for franchising opportunities, 9%* were looking to make financial investments, and 16%* were there to explore other types of opportunities.
*These percentages don’t add up to 100% because companies could have more than one avenue they were interested in pursuing with potential European partners.
- The representatives of the European companies and their Chinese counterparts had plenty of opportunities to discuss business deals. There were 969 business meetings pre-arranged by the Programme before the start of the mission week, and many more spontaneous meetings took place during the exhibition. 522 of the total meetings held, which also include spontaneous meetings, were deemed useful.
- Thanks to this one mission, over 60 new jobs were created in Europe to fulfil growing business needs and expansion to China.
- In terms of improving the companies’ understanding of the target market, the Clean Technologies business mission was very fruitful. 84% of the companies reported strong or substantial improvement of the understanding of the Chinese market, including 23% who identified industry or technology trends.
- The benefits experienced by the participant companies did not stop at understanding the target market. 33% of those who participated were expecting to further engage in detailed discussions, 27% to pursue subsequent exploratory discussions, and 16% of the companies established or were expecting to establish new business collaborations in the target market.
Thankfully, being backed by the EU and the Programme meant that these perceived barriers were much reduced compared to what the companies would’ve experienced had they initiated business in China on their own.
The mission included an exhibition on 21-22 March in Beijing, where the companies exhibited the latest technologies in the following sub-sectors: biomass, biogas, energy efficiency services, air pollution control, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, recycling, and soil pollution prevention and treatment, in the hopes that they would establish mutually beneficial business cooperations in China .
As China's biggest trading partner and a front-runner in the Clean Technologies sector, the European Union had exciting solutions that could be used to counter problematic environmental affairs in China.
At the launch of the business mission  (and of the pilot programme in China), key officials from both markets expressed their support for the companies engaging in establishing trade partnerships.
The Ambassador of the European Union to China stated: "I am confident that together, European and Chinese companies will seize the opportunity to establish new Clean Technology partnerships.”
Mr Liu Dashan, Party secretary and chairman of the China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group, also highlighted the need for such business deals: “The EU Gateway to China is highly in line with the Chinese energy-saving idea of Green and Sustainable Development. We are willing to strengthen cooperation with EU enterprises and to promote mutual benefits and win-win. We look forward to establishing a long-term cooperative partnership with EU enterprises.”
EU-China relations open many potential market opportunities for European companies  in the Chinese cleantech market. Still, doing business in China doesn’t come without challenges. The right partner can help relieve burdens related to export logistics, financial investments and managing local human resources.
Even though the Clean Technologies business mission was the first from the pilot programme to China, the EU Gateway | Business Avenues mission builds upon a 20-year long experience of providing quality coaching, logistical and financial support to European companies targeting Asian markets.
One of the companies that benefitted most from the mission is Europlasma. The French group’s story  stood out as a resounding success. Like many other participants, Europlasma gained fast access to the complex Chinese market relatively fast.
These business missions are an accelerator for business relationships. – Benedicte Amiel, Sales & Marketing Director, Europlasma Industries (France)
Other companies, like Atarfil, BWA, and others praised the programme for the impact it had:
Within two days, we can meet, or approach, a maximum number of potential customers in a relatively short time. This is something that would be impossible if we were attending an exhibition or event by ourselves. – Charif Lafqir, Atarfil (Spain)
This is our first EU Gateway | Business Avenues mission and I am very enthusiastic: the many pre-arranged business-to-business meetings were great in China! – Coos Wessels, BWA (the Netherlands)
All in all, EU Gateway to China supported European companies in their endeavours to probe available challenges and opportunities in China, and to seize all opportunities. Thanks to the EU-funded business mission in Clean Technologies, the sector saw a significant surge of successful international projects in China and created growth and jobs in Europe.