A business hub aiming to boost trade between Sheffield and China has had ‘lots of enquiries’ since opening, says its founder.
Jerry Cheung says he hopes the initiative will ultimately help firms in the region secure a bigger slice of the £11 billion annual Chinese investment in the UK.
Mr Cheung, the man behind the £65 million New Era Square development dominating the skyline at Bramall Lane, realised a 13-year ambition with the opening of the China UK Business Incubator (CUBI) there last September.
Having collaborated with Sheffield’s two universities, the Chamber of Commerce, the council and investors to get the project off the ground, he claims it has made a positive start in its first few months.
Speaking at the Built Environment Networking event at Sheffield’s Cutlers’ Hall on Wednesday, he said: “Chinese investment in the UK during 2018 was £11bn, which is the size of the Sheffield economy.
“I would love to help Sheffield get some of that money through the business incubator…
“The UK should be exporting more to China. Made in the UK is still a big selling point, and I really would love to use my connections and knowledge to help Sheffield City Region make the most of the up-and-coming Chinese market.
“The UK is well-placed to attract Chinese investment. For me, China and the UK are perfect business partners, which is why we want to do more to connect them.
“In Sheffield and the UK in general, one of our problems is that we don’t do enough to tell people how good we are. We tend to keep it a secret, and that needs to change.
“The incubator is open for business and we’re doing some good work. We;re getting lots of enquiries but like everything it will take time to achieve its full potential.
“You only have to look at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is now the pinnacle of UK industry but took 18 years to become what it is today.”
The business incubator is a not-for-profit social enterprise set up to help businesses in the UK and China trade more with each other by assisting them with everything from language skills to better cross-cultural understanding.
It is based within the New Era Square development, dubbed Sheffield’s Chinatown, which once completed will include hundreds of student flats, along with offices, shops and restaurants, situated around a new square.
Mr Cheung was among the speakers at Wednesday's Built Environment Networking event, held to highlight the development opportunities across Sheffield and South Yorkshire.