2018 CFC Lab Industry Partner Event

By MIT-CFC•01 Jun, 2018

MIT’s China Future City Lab (CFC) hosted over 25 industry partners representing eight Chinese firms during a two-day event from May 21-22 which showcased both the CFC’s research and the teams from the Future City Innovation Connector (FCIC). On May 21, the industry partners met with representatives from the ten teams to learn and provide advice about their burgeoning enterprises. The next day the partners attended the MIT’s World Real Estate Forum, including a CFC-hosted three program series about urbanization and innovation in China.


The CFC’s industry partners work for ten influential Chinese firms in the real estate and space development industries. These firms have provided financial and advisory support to the CFC, which was founded in November 2017, to study issues of urbanization in China’s rapidly growing cities. These industry partners have also aided the FCIC teams, providing advice and guidance in advance of the teams’ July trip to China to meet with experienced Chinese entrepreneurs and explore potential pilot sites.


On Monday, the industry partners attended Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy Erik Brynjolfsson’s keynote speech at the WREF about the history and future of machines. The partners then watched presentations by FCIC teams about their startups, whose projects range from analyzing sewage water to produce public health data to more efficiently connecting construction workers with employers.


After lunch, Professor Siqi Zheng, Faculty Director of the CFC, and Ken Goldsmith, Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration at the School of Architecture and Planning, awarded each of the corporate partners a certificate of appreciation from MIT. In addition, they presented awards to the corporate members of the CFC’s Advisory Board.


“We are so proud to have such knowledgeable, supportive, and committed industry partners and this ceremony was just one more avenue to show our appreciation for everything they do to help our lab and the teams,” Zheng said. “We are so excited to see where this fruitful partnership will head in the future, and to experience the benefits of the amazing ideas we are helping come to life.”


For the remainder of the afternoon, the corporate partners had individual meetings with the FCIC teams, discussing the growth potential of the startups and how they might best adjust to the China’s unique urban landscape.


“These meetings were a unique opportunity for our teams to receive feedback and advice and ask relevant questions about the Chinese market before we travel to China,” said Zheng. “The combination of the team’s innovative ideas and our partner’s experience and expertise allowed for extremely productive and informative conversations.”


MIT startup teams meet with Chinese industry partners at the China Future City Lab demo day. Photo: Lighten Studio

On Tuesday, the CFC hosted a suite of three programs during the World Real Estate Forum. The presentations and discussions featured leaders in the field of urbanization in China, including faculty from the CFC and industry partners, discussing “The Power of Place,” with a specific focus on China.


The track comprised programs about choosing the right industry for a certain location, crafting innovative spaces for collaboration, and the benefits and challenges of smart spaces. These topics were chosen because of their relevance to both the growth of China and that of the rest of the world.


“Having a CFC-led track at the WREF allowed the work we are doing with our partners to reach an even broader audience. The spirit of innovation present in the discussions we had parallels the potential for positive change we see in China,” Zheng said.

On the first panel, Zheng led Fosun Property General Manager Guochen Zhai and MIT Media Lab Professor Cesar Hidalgo in a discussion about ensuring the optimal industries took root in certain locations. After Zheng presented the CFC’s research on what factors make new firms and industries most likely to succeed in a location, Hidalgo discussed the history of optimizing learning for machines and human beings. Zhai presented on Fosun’s new strategy of working with municipal governments to help create better communities around their developments.


Zheng led the first panel discurssion. Photo: Lighten Studio

Sloan School of Management Professor Mercedes Delgado moderated the next session, a discussion of the best usage of space in facilitating innovation. Zheng was joined by Hong Kong Land’s Billy Pang Kwok Shun and Nashwork CEO Jian Zhang. Zheng presented CFC research regarding space optimization in China’s densely packed cities. Shun discussed the differences between the government, technology giants and real estate developers with regard to how they facilitate and create cutting-edge development. Zhang showcased Nashwork’s efforts to create innovatively designed and configured spaces for its customers, explaining that this type of space can catalyze innovation and productivity.


Industrial Partner Billy Pan from Hong Kong Land gave talk during second session. Photo: Lighten Studio

 The final panel was led by CFC Executive Director Zhengzhen Tan and focused on the growth, potential and difficulties of smart cities. EY Managing Partner Selina Short discussed the carbon neutral benefits of one specific green district in Sydney, but also mentioned that the installing the latest technology opens firms up to the costs of constantly replacing outmoded devices. Qing Miao of China Resources Land talked about the capability of smart buildings to improve the day-to-day lives of their occupants.


EY Managing Partner Selina gave short discussion. Photo: Lighten Studio

“We are really happy with how the event went and the conversations it inspired. Everyone is so excited about the ideas that are being incubated and how they will be able to improve China’s growing cities and the lives of individuals within them,” Zheng said. “These partnerships are already transforming innovative ideas into the actions that will create this change.”