Cocoon Networks CEO John Zai joins panel discussion at China-Britain AI Summit

October 6, 2017

LONDON - On September 22nd the very first China-UK AI Summit took place in London. Our CEO John Zai was invited to join the investors panel to discuss the current AI investment landscape in China and the UK.


Organised by the China-Britain Business Fusion (CBBF), a multidisciplinary and multi-industry consultancy firm assisting British and Chinese companies with their respective market-entry plans, and held at the Institution for Engineering and Technology, this Sino-British AI summit investigated the Chinese and British AI landscape from a variety of angles. It further uncovered the access points for UK technology in the Belt & Road initiative and aided in forging global partnerships. The event was attended by representatives from leading Chinese investment firms, AI startups, university researchers and the Chinese embassy.



Our Cocoon Networks Founder and CEO John Zai participated in the first panel discussion of the day titled 'Illuminating the Chinese & UK AI landscape' together with senior representatives from King's College London, IBM, Watson Health, ASME and Zige Robotics. 


Upon thanking the organisers, John gave a brief presentation of the recent AI developments and investment opportunities present in China and the UK. According to John, the AI landscape in both countries is incredibly rich and provides fantastic business opportunities, particularly with China’s recent increase in governmental AI spending. (Read our Cocoon Networks investment view for a detailed overview of the latest AI investment activity in China and the UK.) With smart robots and self-driving cars on the horizon, AI, as John stated, is without doubt a huge driving force in innovation hubs across the globe, particularly in China and the UK.


‘Artificial Intelligence! Smart robots making our lives easier! What a future! AI is without doubt a huge driving force in innovation hubs across the globe, particularly in China and the UK. Amongst other frontrunners like Fintech, the field of AI last year drew an incredible global investment of $640 million. By 2025, AI software revenue is predicted to reach $59.8 billion worldwide!’ 


John referred to recent research, which suggests that AI will not be limited to consumer markets but will affect the healthcare sector, the manufacturing industry, agriculture, finance, the media & entertainment industry, advertising, aerospace, and legal and governmental services. The world’s brightest AI researchers are presently working on applications such as highly intelligent image recognition, data management, algorithmic securities trading etc. And whilst AI might not replace human labour in the immediate future, it will certainly improve workflow and assist with mundane tasks.


Himself a cross-cultural investor, John Zai is a Chinese businessman who invested in a 70.000 sq ft neglected former office building and transformed it into what is Cocoon Networks today, a thriving co-working space in East London's startup scene housing more than 30 startups and resident companies.


"Investors globally are very aware of the great promise AI holds and the UK is currently a hot hub of AI innovation. Huge global corporates like IBM, Google and Apple have been competing for private AI companies and with the UK’s world class universities there’s so much great tech talent. The UK overall has received £207 million in VC investment for AI and Machine Learning Companies in the past 5 years thanks to four of the biggest startup acquisitions, DeepMind, VocalIQ, SwiftKey and Magic Pony. London, as Europe’s leading tech city has in 2016 alone secured £85.75m in AI funding.


John further emphasised China’s great interest in AI as evidenced by its plan to become the world’s leading AI innovation centre by 2030, as a means to achieve the desired important economic growth. China’s goals include intensive research & development and the production of a diversified/great range of products and applications. Even if it sounds extremely ambitious, the Chinese government strongly backs this plan as part of a multi-billion dollar national investment initiative. Large amounts of research have been focused in this area and China has so far already applied for nearly 16,000 AI patents.
AI technology is also already part of some of China’s largest e-commerce and investment platforms, for example Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

“Over 40 robotics industry parks are presently set up around the country, one that we’re working closely with at Cocoon Networks is the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in Shanghai. AI was also for the first time included in the government work report by Premier Li Keqiang this March with foci on commercialization of new materials and the development of industrial clusters. Last year, an AI system monitoring traffic and intelligently controlling it has been applied in Hangzhou.”


John Zai noted the great energy and resources China is pouring into AI and how the country is very much looking for global connections, particularly with the innovation powerhouse UK.


"China wants to strongly interact with the international tech market and particularly with London! A great example is the tech influencer community Tech London Advocates, which is led by the fantastic Russ Shaw. To set up the Chinese branch, we’ve teamed up with Tech London Advocates to launch Tech Shanghai Advocates in Shanghai next month. Shanghai itself is a huge tech cluster. It will be the perfect gateway for the tech entrepreneur community there to connect with the rest of the world’s tech ecosystem.


I originally set up Cocoon Networks to strengthen the infrastructure needed for Chinese investment professionals to invest in UK startups and it’s fantastic to be a part of this summit today to celebrate those ties that companies like the China Britain Business Fusion and many others make possible!


There is a reason the current era has been named the ‘Golden Age’ of Sino-British relations, and I very much hope that we can make the most of the incredible talent and resources the UK and China have to offer and create the very best business connections and AI innovations together! Thank you.” 


Over the course of a day, other topics covered at the China-Britain AI summit included the impact of AI on our daily lives, thoughts on the co-existence of humans and intelligent machines, solving the automation paradox by rethinking politics, AI investment trends, Acqui-hiring and ethics, a sensitive subject which deserves great attention amongst all the present AI enthusiasm.


With China's plan to become world leader in AI by 2030, much attention during the talks and panel discussions was also granted to the current startup scene including the rise of incubators and accelerators in China, the role of corporate and government policies, universites and R&D platforms. Particularly science and innovation parks have recently seen great governmental support, deeming China the new 'Start-up Nation'.


At Cocoon Networks we are very much looking forward to observeingwhat further developments and investment opportunities the field of AI will bring, and how it will shape the 'Golden Age of Sino-British Relations'.








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