Companies pour funds into China’s optics valley

The promoters of the Optics Valley of China in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province, announced last Friday investments totaling 1.72 billion Chinese renminbi (US$208 million) by 19 foreign and domestic companies.

The investments will help to fund 136 research and development projects in the Optics Valley of China (OVC), a zone of about 50 square kilometres in which nearly 200 companies are focusing on a wide range of optics-related products, Wuhan researcher Ni Siting said through an interpreter in an interview. The investments were announced in a signing ceremony at China Hi-Tech Fair/ComNet Shenzhen 2000 in Shenzhen, China. Ni represents the Development & Leading Office of OVC, which first announced the zone in May and provides incentives for high-tech development companies there.

While optical transmission and switching technology is expanding the capacity of communications networks rapidly, there is still a demand for more speed. Wuhan, a large inland industrial center, is leveraging the brainpower of a claimed 23 universities and 54 research institutions in its local area to capture some of the business opportunity in this field. Companies in the Optics Valley are also developing optical consumer products such as CD and DVD (digital versatile disc) devices, optical laser components for energy systems and software that controls optical devices, Ni said.

“There is a big market for optical products in China, but many of the products come from foreign companies,” Ni said. “We are facing the global economy, so we would like to have our own products.”

With institutions such as the Wuhan Research Institute of Posts and Telecommunications, Wuhan can develop good technology at low cost, Ni said.

Wolf-Peter Berthold, chairman and managing director of Deutsche Investment Corp. (Asia) Ltd., which participated in one of the investments, said in an interview that he sees good potential in optical products for telecommunications and other applications and saw Wuhan as a promising new site that has not seen as much investment by other foreign companies as have Beijing and Shanghai.

Projects put forward for investment include optical fiber, laser sighting and night-vision devices, laser manufacturing tools, medical equipment and laser heads for combination read-write CD and DVD drives. Some non-optical products are also under development, including geographical information systems and e-commerce software designed to work with the existing material-flow system for manufacturing in China.

The largest investments on Friday came from Hong Kong-listed companies: 180 million renminbi from Everbright Technical Investments Co. Ltd., 100 million renminbi from Wei Ying Group Ltd., and 100 million renminbi from ChinaNet. A consortium of four companies, including Hong Kong-listed Gao Liu Financing Co. Ltd. and DBA Co. Ltd., and mainland China-based Wuhan Mingfang Co. Ltd. and China Heping Investment Co. Ltd., invested 400 million renminbi.

Optics Valley of China can be reached at