Introducing some of SME2GO’s smart city companies. Get insights from Swedish, Finnish, and Estonian SMEs, sharing insights and learnings from new markets, exports, partnerships, and the values of participating in SME2GO.
– Naturally Sweden is famous for innovation, inventiveness, and trustworthiness Internationally, attributes that sell themselves in effect, says Jeremy Thompson, founder of Thompson Architecture Ltd and CEO of Plus Co Partners.
Starting up in 2004 to service Architectural & City Masterplanning projects in China and abroad, Jeremy Thompson works with combining Scandinavian holistic and sustainable solutions into project design, bringing the projects to Sweden.
In 2007 the company won a large-scale masterplan competition in Chongqing teaming up with Tengbom Architects in Stockholm.
– Highlights for me have been the China & MIPIM Awards for Sino Swedish Eco City Wuxi and Expo Shanghai 2010 pavilion interior. Subsequently and also together with Tengbom we carried out major projects in St Petersburg, UK, and Ireland, says Jeremy Thompson and continues:
– I have been working with China projects for over 24 years now from Villa design to Sustainable Urban Masterplanning projects.
Plus Co Partners was only created last year and is an Architectural & Engineering firm offering innovative Building Information Modelling solutions in Dubai.
– Most recently, with Niras Stockholm under the SME2GO flag, we have been selected to evaluate and complement a major City Masterplan in Weifang, Shandong Province PRC.
Baltic Smart City Exporting Tour to China
Jeremy Thompson has visited Weifang twice together with SME2GO’s Export Strategy expert Sandy Li Shenzhi during the past year and is now planning a third trip in March together with six other companies, running under the theme “Weifang Food Valley”.
– I have seen the potential not only in Masterplanning but also in related business for services and products. As a relatively small company, my experience working with SME2GO is that it can bring complementary leads and increase the offer from Europe, adding value to both the project and to new solutions, , says Jeremy Thompson.
In addition, Plus Co Partners is working on other initiatives for China together with Västerås Science Park:
– There’s potential in exporting much more Swedish design, products and services with these interesting initiatives.
The next step in the Food Valley project is “2018 Baltic Smart City Exporting Tour to China”, a SME2GO Scandinavian EU delegation visit to Stockholm-Beijing-Weifang-Rizhao. Lead by SME2GO’s Project Manager Petra Ärlsjö at Västerås Science Park and Mr Shenzhi, the intention of the visit is to facilitate SMEs from the Baltic Region to enter the Chinese market.
– I’m motivated by the fact that relevant businesses can participate and showcase and be demonstrated in the current planning proposals. This is a unique opportunity and foundation for SME future marketing initiatives in China and can only enrich the masterplan with real and sustainable business, service, and environmental solutions, Jeremy Thompson concludes.
Founded 1999 in Västerås through a kick-start program arranged by Västerås Science Park (at that time called Teknikbyn), YES International Group is a consultancy company specializing on China. Sandy Li, Li Shenzhi in Chinese, is the founder and CEO of YES, and have been bridging companies in Scandinavia and China during the last 20 years.
– I fly about 60 times a year and work across cultures, different business areas, and people. The diversity of my work and life gives me unique perspectives and brings new ideas for new business, which keeps me inspired all the time. YES have many exciting cases, and works with building teams of SMEs that create new capabilities in meeting big challenges, says Sandy Li.
YES entered a competition when SME2GO had an open call invitation, and got selected as the mentor to support SMEs in exporting and establishing business in China.
– We really enjoy working with the SME2GO platform!, says Sandy Li.
He explains that many SMEs need help, but don’t always know what for, or where to look for the right solutions.
– By gathering the SMEs on a platform like SME2GO, we can define the targets and needs very easy.
Small players, big market
Another common challenge is the company size, according to Sandy Li:
– Many SMEs have a unique product or solution for one specific area but are too small to play on the big market. China is complicated and it’s easy to fail.
As such, YES and SME2GO aims to combine the know-how and the strength from several SMEs, building strong collaborations, supporting them in working together as a team, and strengthen their collective offer.
– Without SME2GO, our core value cannot be transferred efficiently to the SMEs, says Sandy Li.
Science park companies extra interesting
Many SMEs lack confidence in entering the market, and almost all the them need support in doing so – but the possibilities for Nordic SMEs going to China is huge, according to Sandy Li.
– SMEs have their limitations, but they are more flexible than the large global players. We try to evaluate the core value of each SME and discuss different business possibilities with them. For instance, a company who tries to sell to China might need local partners and investors instead. In that case, it might be more efficient for an entrepreneur to work as a director and let the Chinese producer run sales.
Sandy Li explains that China can be an interesting test-bed to review business, verify the value you are delivering, and to get new business ideas.
– So even when we talk about the China market, our focus is on each SME and their individual business. I have been working in my little office in Västerås Science Park for almost 10 years, and I very much appreciate the environment for startups their, says Sandy Li and continues:
– I strongly recommend you keep an extra eye on the startup companies connected to local science parks in your city.
With 30 years of experience, Tor Lundström is Head of Division at NIRAS International Consulting. In this interview he shares his thoughts and experience working with the sustainable development goals, and the SME2GO platform, towards building sustainable and democratic societies.
With a background in agriculture and agriculture economics, Tor Lundström is heading NIRAS international consulting, which is the part of NIRAS that works with international development.
– When I first joined what today is NIRAS Finland, about 30 years ago, I came in as a trainee and made my first research work in Kenya on dairy production, says Tor Lundström.
He joined NIRAS again a few years later and has been with the company ever since.
– I have spent eleven years abroad, about ten years in Africa, and one year in Estonia setting up Scandinavian agriculture business just after the Estonian independence, Tor Lundström explains.
NIRAS has offices in 26 countries, 300 permanent staff and a 65-million-euro turnover. The company has been growing steadily and been profitable for the last 15 years, today with the UN as their biggest client. NIRAS is one of the leading companies in Europe, working cross several sustainability sectors such as water innovation, startups, youth employment, and creating innovation in Africa and Asia.
– Generally, we work as advisors and experts, offering technical support and facilitating change as supervisors. Our role is often to try to connect skills and knowledge to certain problems for developing business, education systems, and governments. Through SME2GO, we’re connected with even more companies, says Tor Lundström.
Connecting the growing younger population to good business is something NIRAS feels extra passionate about, Tor Lundström explains:
– Among other big subjects such as human rights, democracy, gender issues and equality. NIRAS is working with all 17 of the sustainable development goals. Reducing poverty and creating wealth. NIRAS is building sustainable and democratic societies.
The SME2GO-project represents something were we can combine all our skills, says Tor Lundström:
– We are now integrating our company strategy and business model towards the sustainable development goals, and the SME2GO platform is connecting many companies and business opportunities.
SME2GO is a EU funded growth project running between 2016-2018 with the aim to increase exports of smart city solutions from the Central Baltic region to new and expanding markets. SME2GO focus on increasing the cooperation between growth-oriented SMEs with solutions for smart cities and multinational enterprises to create synergies, new cross-border business opportunities, and export.
Project participants are offered networking opportunities, international marketing and sales training, matchmaking, market intelligence, and customized support. The project is a unique opportunity for innovative and growth-oriented companies to create business in new and expanding markets.