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Argonauts Study tour China from 19 to 25 Oct.2019

From 19 to 25 October 2019 Bart Horsten joined a 15-person multi-disciplinary delegation to China as China expert or so-called ‘Lead Argonaut’. The study tour was organized by The Argonauts, the innovation consulting platform from Antwerp. The journey brought the delegation to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing and was a combination of lectures, visits to companies and innovation hubs and ‘city safari’s’.


During the daily lectures ChinaTalk’s Ed Sander talked about the rise of China, China’s internet ecosystems, mobile payments, New Retail, WeChat and digital innovation. Bart Horsten talked about best practices and introduced several case studies. 

City Safari’s

During the afternoon program the participants went on ‘city safari’ with Ed Sander to check out innovative retail concepts, such as Alibaba’s Qin Cheng Li shopping mall, Hema (Freshippo), Kaola, Tmall Innesfree, Aldi Shanghai, Tmall Intersport, Nio House, Luckin Coffee, Xiaomi Home and the unmanned store Bingobox. Several flagship stores were also visited, such as the Starbucks Roastery Reserve, Nike House of Innovation and the Lego and M&M stores.

Business and Innovation

Additionally several interesting innovation hubs and companies were visited. In Shanghai the incubation hubs Xnode and Innospace were visited and a presentation was given by the health InsurTech company Carevoice, followed by a pitching competition with innovative start-ups. In Hangzhou the delegation paid a visit to Geely Auto Group, Vanke Real Estate, WeWork co-working station and the leading IOT & AI startup Whale. The trip was concluded with visits to Mazars, Innoway, Intel Lab and Bencham in Beijing, followed by a breakfast seminar organized by the EU SME Centre.

Reflection Workshop

The inspirational study tour was concluded by a reflection workshop together with two Belgian entrepreneurs in Beijing: Benjamin Claeys and Frederic Derbaudrenghien. It was concluded that China has made a staggering catch-up in the past 10 years, especially in terms of infrastructure, technology and way of living, mainly due to a centrally controlled strategy and an extreme focus on data, artificial intelligence and consumer experience. However, it was also agreed that there are still a lot of opportunities in China for technology providers and niche players from Europe.

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