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Stage of innovation shifts to China as financing improves

By Zhou Lanxu| chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: June 25, 2023 L M S


Shi Hongjun, founder of Vito Diagnostics, introduces folate test products to reporters. [Zhou Lanxu/chinadaily.com.cn]

China's sheer market size, sustained growth momentum and improving access to finance have provided sci-tech startups with a vast stage for their develop, said Shi Hongjun, founder of Vito Diagnostics, an innovative diagnostics company based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

"I feel that the entire world's stage is shifting to China, or at least there is such a momentum," said Shi, who previously worked as a lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia but came back to China as a researcher at Westlake University in Hangzhou in 2017.

In 2021, Shi founded Vito Diagnostics based on his research findings and officially launched folate test products last year.

"What we can achieve in China should be even bigger than what we did overseas. I believe it is the right decision to establish my business back home," he said, citing the country's huge domestic market that is still growing and favorable financial services.

In its founding year, Vito Diagnostics was yet to generate profits, but the Bank of Hangzhou lent 3.5 million yuan ($487,499) in total to the company given its confidence in the capability of Shi's team.

Although the lending amount was not big, it remained "extremely valuable" for Shi, as it enabled the company's marketing campaigns in Beijing and other regions and helped it seize the window of opportunity to achieve fast development.

Vito Diagnostics was only one of the numerous startups in Zhejiang province that has benefited from financial products tailor-made for high-tech companies.

The outstanding balance of loans to small and medium-sized technology enterprises in Hangzhou reached 306.4 billion yuan by the end of April, up 22.93 percent year-on-year, according to the Hangzhou Central Sub-branch of the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank.

The growth is partly attributable to the implementation of structural monetary policy tools, including the special central bank lending for sci-tech innovation, established in April 2022, which has facilitated the access of more technology companies to financing at a lower cost, according to the sub-branch.

As the country continues to facilitate financing for technology companies, Shi said Vito Diagnostics is now looking to raise further tens of millions of yuan to enable its "bolder ideas" in genetic testing and prenatal screening, after it completed its pre-A round of funding worth tens of millions of yuan last year.

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