CWA Attend Invest NI Conference

CWA and local businesses they work with attended the first International Export Conference on China hosted by Invest NI. The high profile conference was hosted virtually and aimed to help local companies do business with China.  Words of encouragement from  local Government Minister for the Economy Gordon Lyons set the tone for the conference.

Mr Lyons was appointed Minister for the Economy on 06 July 2021. His responsibilities include economic policy, higher and further education, employment and skills programmes, employment rights, consumer affairs, energy, telecoms, tourism, minerals and petroleum, European Fund management, Insolvency Service, Credit Unions and Societies, and statistics and economic research. he made it clear that China is still a priority market for Northern Ireland and outlined how local businesses will be assisted.

China was represented by Meifang Zhang the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Belfast. She outlined the relationship between our countries and the opportunities China had to offer.

Appointed Consul General of China in Belfast in 2018, Mme Meifang ZHANG started her diplomatic career as an official interpreter and translator in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). She served respectively in the political and bilateral section of the Chinese Embassy in France and Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations in New York. She later became Special Assistant to former Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Qian Qichen, and served as Deputy Consul General in the Chinese Consulate General in Toronto and New York.

Organised and hosted by Invest Northern Ireland

Session ONE | Northern Ireland’s export vision

9:30am - 10:00am

Comfort Break

10:01am - 10:14am

Session TWO | Exporting and doing business in China - Education

10:15am - 11:35am

SESSION 1 Recording


Signs of Growth

Feature China leads the way with green shoots of economic recovery - Shanghai cityscape

Recognised as the second largest economy worldwide, China is one of the first countries to begin its economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting significant export opportunities for both small and medium sized enterprises (SME) and large businesses from Northern Ireland.

Exporting opportunities

The Chinese market has potential business opportunities in the materials handling, life and health sciences, education, and food and drink sectors. Invest NI’s Asia Pacific team can help local companies compete there with location and sector specific research, local market advice and entry strategies, and information on supply and distribution networks.

There are also a number of in-market trade fairs and exhibitions planned in the upcoming months and although global travel restrictions are still in place, our in-market team can provide a physical presence for Northern Ireland companies, delivering vital promotional opportunities in China.

Following the relaxation of strict quarantine measures and continued government support, China’s economy is starting to recover. Currently most of the country’s large businesses and 80% of its SMEs have successfully returned to work and the economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter of FY 2020.21. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the global economy will shrink by 4.9% in 2020, they expect China’s economy to grow by 1%, making it a very attractive market for Northern Ireland businesses.

The Chinese government and local economic development agencies have also initiated a number of economic recovery measures.

Economic recovery measures include:

  • Reducing tax, rent and medical insurance
  • Introducing free-trade zones across the country
  • Boosting consumer spend through voucher schemes
  • Creating loan extension and credit loan support tools for SMEs
  • Delivering virtual trade fairs and exhibitions

Materials Handling

The Chinese government has already invested £1.15trillion in new infrastructure with over 20 provinces committing to increase their infrastructure investment. These commitments have contributed to a 62.9% growth in sales of excavators in China, providing significant export opportunities for Northern Ireland companies in the materials handling sector.

At the height of the pandemic in April, we represented six local companies at Asia’s most popular environmental technology solutions trade fair, IE Expo. At this event, we promoted Northern Ireland’s materials handling proposition to 73,000 delegates.  Moving forward, we will also attend November’s Bauma China 2020 exhibition and IE Expo 2021 in April.

China will undoubtedly be one of the largest potential markets for waste recycling in the coming years. It presents enormous business opportunities for Northern Ireland companies. We are glad to see increasing interest in the Chinese market from the materials handling industry in Northern Ireland. IE Expo has been a successful start as the first physical exhibition for waste recycling sector in 2020.

Damon Peng, Materials Handling China: Sector Head, Invest NI

Life and Health Sciences

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the strengths and weaknesses in China’s life and health sciences sector. The Chinese government is now encouraging foreign collaboration on health and life science projects to help address these weaknesses, providing opportunities for local companies.

In August, we represented six Northern Ireland companies at the China Association of Clinical Laboratory Practice Expo (CACLP), providing valuable promotional platform. CACLP is the largest, most influential in vitro diagnostics exhibition in China, attended by 50,000 delegates.

To help develop trade opportunities and generate business leads we will represent a number of local companies at China’s largest medical device exhibition, CMEF from 20th to 21st October.
As part of this exhibition we will host a seminar in partnership with the Department for International Trade for the neuroscience, medical technologies and diagnostic sectors, which will showcase the skills and expertise available from Northern Ireland companies.

China is already the second largest life and health sciences market globally, and will undoubtedly be one of the largest global IVD markets. The country’s in vitro diagnostics market exceeded $14.5 billion in 2019, and there is vast opportunities for Northern Ireland companies to export and trade with this sector in China.

Monica Ren, Life and Health Sciences China; Sector Head, Invest NI


Social distancing measures have had a transformational impact on the education sector globally. Distance learning is the norm with many academic institutions opting for virtual delivery as the default teaching method, presenting opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses offering collaborative online learning solutions.

Northern Ireland companies catering for the education sector (particularly teacher training), which have developed, or are in the process of developing sophisticated online delivery models are particularly well-placed to capitalise on these opportunities.

Online education is flourishing in China:

  • International schools require online tutoring resources for almost 200,000 pupils
  • Around 60,000 pupils enrolled in UK schools are currently studying remotely from China due to travel restrictions
  • The Department of International Trade in China predicts 35% traditional delivery schools will close
  • 40% of businesses offering online learning are expected to hire more staff
  • Demand is rising for online teacher training courses

To highlight the benefits of choosing Northern Ireland as overseas study destination, we will be attending the virtual China Education Exhibition (CEE) between 24 October and 1 November, showcasing what our local universities and colleges can offer students from China.

Food and Drink

China has seen an increase in sales of red meat, dairy, seafood and drinks and has used imported products to help meet local demand. This, along with a new emphasis on healthier eating, is paving the way for new export opportunities for Northern Ireland food and drink businesses. We are attending the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in November and are looking forward to promoting our local companies to the Chinese market.

Opportunities in China

Medical devices

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world and transformed our way of life. From the speedy development of vaccines to a more digitalised approach to working, humanity has learned just how agile it can be in a crisis.

As the saying goes, out of adversity comes opportunity, and nowhere has that proved to be more evident than in the medical technology sector in China which has grown, in part, due to high demand from China for mid to high-end equipment. This growth presents a significant opportunity for Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences industry to export its cutting-edge products to meet this demand.

Devices that simplify the prevention, detection and treatment of illness and disease are not new, yet the pandemic has increased demand for these products. From wearables and implants that can detect and treat health problems to artificial intelligence-enabled imaging and track-and-trace technology, the Med-Tech industry in China is predicted to experience explosive growth over the next five years. This increase in growth offers ample opportunities for Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences industry to export to China.

China’s desire to build a world-leading healthcare infrastructure, reflective of the country’s ‘Healthy China 2030’ vision, has led to significant investment in the medical devices sector, which currently accounts for nearly 20% of the global market. According to Deloitte, the China market was on track to be worth RMB800 billion (US$124.2 million) by the end of 2020. This upward trend was evident even before the pandemic. Since 2015, China’s medical devices sector’s average annual growth rate has remained above 20%, significantly outpacing its GDP.

A post-COVID upgrade of the public health infrastructure is high on the agenda of the Chinese local and central governments. Some provinces have injected up to RMB 150 million (USD 23 million) into health projects. Echoing the central government’s push to increase China’s biosecurity capacity, provinces have announced their own policies to establish a minimum requirement for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – a reliable method for detecting viruses - laboratories and ICU equipment by both region and hospital.

"Invest NI provided invaluable support as we further expand into China. They acted as an intermediate in finding potential partners, scheduling virtual meetings, and identifying opportunities suitable to our increasing product range for the medical simulation market"

Aisling Fitzpatrick, TruCorp

The pandemic has also brought healthcare into sharp focus for China's citizens. Demand for online medical consultations soared, along with the emergence of drugs retailing on some of China’s leading e-commerce platforms.  Tech giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and leveraged their big data expertise to enter the healthcare sector, establishing new distribution models for medical devices and health services.

However, there is undoubtedly room for Northern Ireland’s medical devices companies to take advantage of China’s desire to overhaul its health systems. There are currently more than 26,000 medical device manufacturers registered in China, with the medical equipment sub-sector dominating the market, accounting for nearly 57% of the entire medical devices' market.

Due to a shortage of R&D and advanced manufacturing capabilities, most Chinese manufacturers are producing low value-added products, and therefore China still relies on imported mid to high-end medical devices. Deloitte recently revealed more than 80% of high-value medical devices used in China’s top Tier 3A public hospitals [1] are produced by international companies such as Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, GE and Philips. This reliance on overseas products provides an excellent opportunity for Northern Ireland’s R&D intensive, innovative and high-tech medical device manufacturers to enter the market.

Northern Ireland’s Life and Health Sciences sector is uniquely placed to provide quality technology solutions for China’s healthcare sector. It has built a strong reputation in recent years, offering cutting-edge research in medical device technology - underpinned by its robust collaborative approach between industry, academia, and clinicians. The industry also boasts a highly developed R&D ecosystem, and its innovation in this sector has seen the emergence of a growing list of companies exporting overseas.

How can Northern Ireland’s medical devices companies bridge the gap and begin exporting to China?

Invest Northern Ireland’s Asia Pacific team can provide insights into the Chinese marketplace through market research, market scoping, market entry planning, and identifying and targeting potential customers and distributors.

“With the help of Invest NI, we were able to carry out 25 meetings in one week on a recent visit to China. On top of this, their continued help with translation, cultural nuances, and even marketing and display material is invaluable, and as a result the outcome of any trip is successful and positive"

Dr Jason McKeown, Neurovalens

We provide a presence for Northern Ireland companies at international trade and networking events in the region and we can secure vital meetings and pitches for clients. For example, in May 2021, we represented several Northern Ireland companies at the China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF), a medical equipment exhibition that connected international brands with potential clients, including private companies, regulators and government agencies.

At this event we facilitated a webinar where two Northern Ireland companies (TruCorp and Randox Toxicology) pitched their products and services to over 200 leading medical devices companies, investors, and distribution partners in China.
Invest NI’s in-market team in China is also engaging with Life and Health Sciences sector associations, participating in key conferences, and collaborating with Chinese state-owned companies.

We also support leading private companies to further promote Northern Ireland’s sector offering in China.

Upcoming events within the life and health sciences industry in China include:

  • A diagnostic focused webinar with CACLP (China Association of Clinical Laboratory Practice Expo) in September 2021;
  • Clinical Trial, an industry-focused event for global clinical development leaders in November 2021 and
  • A virtual sector visit to China in January 2022

To find out more about these events, China’s Life and Health Sciences sector and the support we can provide to NI companies, visit, speak to your Client Executive or email

[1] The Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China - hospitals in China have been classified in a 3-tier system that recognizes a hospital's ability to provide medical care, medical education, and conduct medical research. A Public Hospital Tier 3 Class A is the top tier.