One of the most interesting sightseeing trips we had in China was to the city of Shenzhen where we visited the Shenzhen Virtual University Park (SZVUP). Shenzhen is one of China’s few special economic zones, and as such, attention to innovation and technology is visible in every step of the way. As the “Silicon Valley” of China, the city boasts an annual growth rate that far surpasses that of many urban centers. At the core of Shenzhen’s strive for becoming an innovation hub is the Shenzhen Virtual University Park.
The SZVUP was founded at the initiative of Shenzhen Municipal Government in 1999 with the aim to promote development in high-tech sectors. The distinguishing feature of the SZVUP from a regular education institution is its impressive reach. The campus looks like an amalgam of a business conglomerate and an Ivy-league institution. This feeling of stepping into an all-encompassing entity is not surprising given that the SZVUP brings together 58 prestigious higher educational institutions, including seven international universities. More than 260,000 students have been trained in roughly 265 Research and Development Centers of the University Park. A number of international and local large-scale business enterprises have opened up their bases in the park, including the ‘Great Wall’, ‘Huawei’, ‘ IBM’, ‘OLYMPUS’, and etc. Serving as a common platform for cooperation among universities, industry, and government, the SZVUP inevitably sets research and teaching in the front and center of Shenzhen’s development.
At the meeting with the representatives of the Georgia Tech University, which has a M.S. degree program in Electrical and Computer Engineering housed at the SZVUP, one of the professors mentioned how the abundance of multinational corporations in Shenzhen shaped the success of the SZVUP and contributed to the overall economic miracle of the city in the past decade. Students from neighboring countries, such as India and Russia, find the educational opportunities at the SZVUP as a more convenient and affordable alternative to similar degree programs in the United States or Europe.
The highlights of the visit to SZVUP were the meetings with two tech start-ups – a cultural and a technical one. It was particularly striking to see how the women were placed in leading positions both within the university structure and at the companies involved. Both the CEO of the robotics start-up and the founder of the cultural company highlighted the particular interest and collaboration of local governments in their projects. In general, the Chinese government, in an unusual manner, seems to have a less imposing and a more collaborative presence in the city.
China’s rapid economic rise and the subsequent technological innovations are a source of pride for the country. Without a doubt, Shenzhen will prove to be the key region in this economic transformation. Once a very quaint, small town of fishermen,  Shenzhen is now a home for more than 15 million – locals and migrants alike, a gem in the Pearl River Delta region’s economic future, and a rising star in the world of technology and finance.
 Holmes, F. (2017, April 21). China’s New Special Economic Zone Evokes Memories Of Shenzhen. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2017/04/21/chinas-new-special-economic-zone-evokes-memories-of-shenzhen/#2fa946f876f2