Business / Industries

China has great potential in engineering: former BP chief

By Cecily Liu ( Updated: 2015-02-03 17:43

China is emerging as an engineering powerhouse and has great potential to produce top-notch engineering solutions that will make significant impact globally, said Lord John Browne, former chief executive of BP.

Browne, who is also Chairman of the Trustees of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a global engineering prize launched in the UK in 2011, said China's market is one great push factor for China's engineering sector growth.

"In China, there is some very good engineering. This is something that has happened over the past 20 years," Browne said in an exclusive China Daily interview before the announcement of this year's prize winners, which is to take place on Tuesday.

The 1 million pound Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, which was launched by a cross-party line up of leaders from all three UK political parties, gave out its inaugural prize in 2013.

The inaugural prize was awarded to a team of five engineers for their participation in the creation of the Internet, the World Wide Web and the Mosaic web browser.

"As the economy liberalized, and as more people went into high end engineering, people began to focus on standards, because every economy goes through that transition from doing everything they can to doing everything superbly well with high quality, reliability and so forth, and you see that in China," he said.

Browne says engineering is not rocket science, but the application of scientific knowledge to transform people's daily lives, hence commercialization and marketing of the end product and services to achieve wide usage is just as important.

"The prize is designed to inspire more people to go into engineering, it combines the fruits of discovery, laboratory, innovation, and the need to improve humanity," Browne says.

He says in China there are already many good examples of engineering emerging, with the telecommunications company Huawei and Lenovo as key examples.

Huawei, which was founded in 1987 in Shenzhen, is a company that values technology and innovation highly. Huawei invests 10 percent of its annual revenue in research and development, and in 2013 this amounted to $5.4 billion. Over the past 10 years, Huawei has invested more than $20 billion in R&D.

The company also has more than 70,000 employees directly engaged in R&D worldwide. We have an international R&D system with 45 training centers, 16 R&D centers and 28 joint innovation centers globally, according to Huawei.

Whereas Huawei's overseas expansion is largely attributed to organic growth, Lenovo's overseas growth relied heavily on its acquisition of the PC division of IBM in 2005 for $1.25 billion.

This acquisition gave Lenovo many important products including ThinkPad laptops and tablets, which were very popular globally at the time, and it also gave Lenovo local sales, marketing and technology teams in many international markets.

Furthermore, many Chinese automobile companies are also demonstrating great engineering skills, Browne says.

Many Chinese car manufacturers that greatly value engineering have all established R&D centers overseas to make use of the best talents globally. For example, Chang'an Automotive has an R&D center at the University of Nottingham, and SAIC Motor has a R&D center in Birmingham, created through its acquisition of the UK's MG car brand.

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