One of Scotland's leading experts on China has urged Scots innovators to seize the chance offered by the liberalisation of travel rules to tap the deep pockets of Chinese investors and seek new markets.
Alan Muir, of Edinburgh's Seven Hills Ventures, a former Strathclyde University pharmacologist turned biotech investment manager, said that Chancellor George Osborne's announcement last week of new fast-track visa procedures for Chinese business visitors presented a "great opportunity" for Scottish companies to exploit China's newly enriched consumers.
He urged them to take advantage of the social transformation and increased freedom of movement of Chinese politicians and business people, as well as existing links with the Chinese elite who often favour Scottish universities for their children.
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Muir, a Mandarin speaker who has official links with the eastern Chinese provinces of Jiaxing, Wuxi and Ningbo, has been visiting China since 1998 and now spends up to 30 days of the year brokering investment deals. He claims to have hosted five visits to Scotland by groups of potential Chinese investors since last year.
He said that Chinese policy "to move one-third of its population into the middle class" had heralded a consumption boom in which firms would seek out Western invention to create products and services.
"We [in the West] are technology rich, but money poor, whereas the Chinese are the opposite, though their technology is progressing very fast," he said. "The trick is to get the two [of us] together."
Muir claimed his firm had brokered "the first investment from China into a Scottish SME last week". He said: "It was a relatively small amount of money but was significant in the sense that it was angel money from China going into a Scottish SME."
He also urged Scottish firms with innovative products to seek direct links with Chinese backers "rather than go through successive rounds of angel funding which becomes a de facto way of life divorced from the customer side of things". Muir added: "We've got a new bunch of customers in town with money to spend on innovative projects."
His comments were backed by Ian Scholes, Europe head of Colpitts World Travel, the executive travel agency that manages travel logistics for investment companies' Chinese operations.
Scholes welcomed UK Government efforts to simplify trade. He added: "There are many complexities in managing visa requirements for business reps visiting China. Relaxing of these measures will undoubtedly promote increased trade."