Chinese innovators get a boost from Lift

By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-17 18:13:01

Swiss organization comes to Shanghai

More than 350 technology innovators, designers, and enthusiasts converged last Wednesday at Lift China in Shanghai's Power Station of Art. This is the first China-based event organized by Lift, a Swiss organization dedicated to identifying the next major technology trends and their business and social implications. The group regularly holds events and innovation programs across Europe and Asia.

"By organizing more than 20 events that stage pioneers and showcase innovative projects, we have built an amazing community of innovators around the world, and you cannot have a global community without having China in it," Abir Oreibi, the President of Lift, told the Global Times when asked about organizing an event in China. "Lift is bringing this international network, and we want to see how China integrates into it."

Oreibi believed the timing was right to come to Shanghai. "China is moving away from the image of a country that copies, to a country that really has a lot of creativity. It has a thriving innovative ecosystem," she pointed out.

At the core of Lift China was a mix of panel discussions and workshops, with speakers focusing on topics covering everything from urban planning and interactive design to ethics.

An editorial board composed of local experts was behind the event's schedule. They highlighted what was happening with the city and its pioneers, and also identified important and interesting topics.

"We worked directly with our participants, because we want people to design the event they would be attending. We said what the themes were and invited people to send proposals," explained Oreibi.

The 15 speakers picked to lead the event come from a diverse range of countries and backgrounds. Thomas Landrain, co-founder of the open-source laboratory La Paillasse, offered his latest insights on DIY biology. Feng Gao, co-founder of Open Data China, and TH Schee, co-founder of Code for Tomorrow, hosted a workshop on the status of open data in China and its potential applications in business.

Prior to the event in Shanghai, Lift offered guidance to these speakers on how to make their sessions more interactive and enjoyable. "People are very demanding - they don't want to just sit and hear someone talking. So we sent all our speakers a toolkit on steps of how to successfully establish a workshop," Oreibi said.

One of the most popular speakers was David Li, co-founder of XincheJian, China's first hackerspace. He is set to do a follow-up talk at the Lift Conference, Lift's flagship event in Geneva in 2015.

The Lift China event was co-hosted by swissnex China, a public-private venture initiated by the government of Switzerland to link Shanghai's most promising innovators with the European country.

Of course, many of the event's visitors saw it as an important networking opportunity. Lin Zheshui, the organizer of Make Plus, an art and technology nonprofit program in Shanghai, said she attended in hopes of meeting innovators from Switzerland.

"Since my program organizes events to introduce the latest trends to the general public, I take this as an opportunity to connect and learn about the latest projects (Swiss innovators) bring to the field so we can bring more exciting stuff to our own audience," said Lin.

The wheels of innovation don't stop when a Lift event ends. Lift's next move, Oreibi said, would be to incubate and expand promising projects born in the event's workshops. "When we see topics that we feel strongly about, we will incubate - either by ourselves, or by inviting companies…to do it."

Before setting up Lift in Geneva in 2006, Oreibi worked as the Director of International Business Development for Alibaba for eight years. She told the Global Times that she spent a lot of time working with the e-commerce giant's founder, Jack Ma, in the company's early days. Ma's emphasis on creating value, she said, still drives her business decisions - including her decision to organize Lift China.

"I see Lift China as a discovery trip, and the aim is to understand this moment and create some value for the people here. From what I see, this is already taking place," Oreibi said. "When one of the speakers, Dr Gao from Tongji University, sees Arthur Lok (project director at China Institute for Innovation) among the editorial board, she asks me if he could give an introduction speech to her workshop, and it happened. They are planning to collaborate afterwards. I am happy that we can make these things happen."

Abir Oreibi, the President of Lift, speaks at Lift China last Wednesday.


Lift China attendees at a workshop on smart cities


Ideas prepared by participants during a workshop

Photos: Courtesy of Lift


Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai

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