International dignitaries and businesses attended the first ever China Forum in the city to hear how a unique platform is set to bring ‘enormous benefits’ as a ‘shining light of the Sheffield City Region enterprise ecosystem’.

‘All Things China’ was hosted by the China UK Business Incubator (CUBI), the brainchild of businessman Jerry Cheung, and held at the £75million New Era Square Development – dubbed Sheffield’s China Town – located between London Road and Bramall Lane.

The CUBI was launched in September 2018, and is a collaboration between Sheffield City Council, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and New Era Development (UK) Ltd.

New Era Development managing director Jerry Cheung said: “CUBI aims to be the China Gateway and a one-stop-shop in the North of England serving as a regional hub for intelligence and information gathering for local businesses who would like to enter the China market, as well as help to attract China enterprises to invest in the Sheffield City Region.

“Our first China Forum was an important showcase event in bringing the public sector, private sector and education sector together, to create a stronger platform that can truly work for both UK and China businesses.”

Nearly 100 guests attended the first China Forum attendees and 44 companies were represented from Sheffield, Doncaster, Chesterfield and even Manchester.

After a welcome by CUBI Chair Richard Caborn, guests heard from speakers including An Xi – Economic and Commercial Office Embassy of People’s Republic of China.

Richard Wright, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Director – Policy and Representation, told guests: “As a Chamber we have said for some time that by 2050 we will be judged more by how we trade with the Asian economies like China, rather than our traditional markets like Europe and the US. The latter will still be important, but the growth potential is in the East.

“CUBI has the potential to be a great platform for Sheffield to build a trade relationship with China. “Its unique offering is everything we think businesses will need to identify opportunities and deal with the mechanics of exporting to and importing from China. We would advise businesses to engage. It’s a long-term game but the benefits are enormous if you get it right.”

Kevin Kerrigan, Sheffield Hallam University Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Sheffield Business School, said: “As a city with more Chinese students than anywhere outside London, Sheffield is well placed to be the northern gateway for doing business with China. Sheffield Hallam has many thousands of graduates in China and supports many of these to develop East West business links.

“CUBI offers a unique opportunity to provide a one-stop-shop for business support, consultancy and research services and will become a shining light of the Sheffield City Region enterprise ecosystem.”

Also speaking at the event were: Sheffield City Council, Cabinet Member for Business Mazher Iqbal; Professor Dave Petley – University of Sheffield, Vice President for Innovation; Xiangyu Deng – CUBI’s associate member Plustech, and Dennis Chung – General Manager of JRI.

Mazher Iqbal added: “The completion of the CUBI incubator will help to attract and retain the very best Chinese graduates in Sheffield and strengthen our already excellent relationships with the far east.

“We welcome thousands of overseas students each year and the bonds between our two countries are resilient and ever-growing – in education, business, investment and culture.

“As well as encouraging graduates from China and elsewhere to set up businesses in Sheffield., the incubator will encourage established companies to expand into the UK creating high quality job opportunities for our people.

“China has been identified as an important export market for our companies in Sheffield and our own China 88 scheme is supporting companies from our city with ambitions to export their products and services and seek investment partners.

“This is truly a success for Team Sheffield.”

The CUBI partnership has a strategic steering committee made up of representatives of each member organisation. It is chaired by the former trade minister Richard Caborn MP, and the President of CUBI is Professor Sir Keith Burnett, former President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield – a visionary leader himself in building closer ties with China.

New Era Square is a mixed leisure, commercial and residential development near the heart of Sheffield city centre, which includes a 20-storey skyscraper.  Once completed it will include hundreds of student flats, along with offices, shops and restaurants.