Insight: Made in China 2025 and the Milan innovation hub

By Guiliano Noci

Giuliano Noci is Full Professor of Strategy & Marketing at the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano. Since 2011 he is Vice Rector for China of Politecnico di Milano. In this contribution for Business Chief, Noci discusses the Made in China 2025 initiative and its impact on Sino-Italian relations.


In May 2015, China officially launched ‘Made in China 2025’, the industrial and technological plan that aims to see China emerge in a position of leadership in 10 areas including manufacturing, design and artificial intelligence (AI).

The plan was drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) over two and a half years, with input from 150 experts from the China Academy of Engineering. Its purpose, much like Germany’s Industry 4.0, is to upgrade Chinese industry, making it more efficient and integrated so that it becomes a leader in global production chains.

However, Made in China 2025 goes further than Industry 4.0’s technological focus. Its overarching aims are to position the manufacturing sector as innovation-driven, emphasising quality over quantity, optimising the structure of Chinese industry, achieving green development and nurturing human talent. It also has a broad focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), strengthening their intellectual property rights and allowing them to self-declare their own technology standards.

The plan’s quantifiable goals are to raise domestic content of core components and materials to 40% by 2020 and 70% by 2025 and support the creation of manufacturing innovation centres (15 by 2020 and 40 by 2025).


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One such centre, a design innovation hub, is being launched by Beijing-based Tsinghua University and Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy. It is set to become the biggest Chinese innovation pole in the world.

The hub is Tsinghua’s first – and only – educational and research base in Europe, which will become a platform for Chinese companies to receive innovation-related services such as training in AI and robotics technologies, rapid scaling-up of SMEs, product innovation in the third biggest university incubator in the world and instruction in areas including entrepreneurship.  

The aims of the Joint Platform were set out at the beginning of the 2017 in Beijing by the Italian president Sergio Mattarella and the Chinese president Xi Jinping. The platform will be open for participation from academic circles, governments and industries of both China and Italy, as well as promoting communication and collaboration between both countries in education, scientific research and cultural industries.

The Joint Platform will combine the Italian methods of innovation and development with the Chinese methodology of production on a huge scale. It will support and inspire all Chinese companies willing to seize new opportunities in terms of business and technological development to compete with foreign markets by increasing their reputation and innovation skill at an international level.

Milan is well regarded for its history of innovative practice and skill, a characteristic that Chinese companies working in the hub will be able to benefit from. The platform positions Italy as a technological partner of China and is a huge step forward for Sino-Italian business relations.




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