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24 August 2017

74yo Australian inventor takes on China with flat pack buildings

Aussie architect and entrepreneur Magnus Bjornsson is “jumping into the sea” in China’s Silicon Valley.

THE high stakes of entrepreneurship is summed up by the Chinese in one word — Xiahai.

It means to “jump into the sea”.

It’s a concept Australian entrepreneur Magnus Bjornsson is taking to the extreme.

The 74-year-old has left behind the southern hemisphere winter for the sweltering humidity of Shenzhen in a bid to find Chinese partners for his invention.

He doesn’t speak the language and faces China’s notorious red tape and bureaucracy but believes it’s the best place to patent his flat-pack building kit, described as the “IKEA of building”, and launch it to the world.

The industrial hub of Shenzhen was built on entrepreneurship. Within three decades, the concept of “jumping into the sea” transformed what was a small fishing village of about 100,000 people into what is now one of China’s largest and wealthiest cities.

The city’s transformation began in 1980, when China, desperate to open up its economy to the rest of the world, singled it out as a special economic zone. It’s now home to 20 million people, has the world’s fourth tallest skyscraper, third largest container port and is the birthplace of some of China’s biggest and most innovative companies.

It’s also China’s answer to Silicon Valley, with global tech giants Tencent and Huawei headquartered there.

Shenzhen is now one of China’s largest and wealthiest cities.

Shenzhen is now one of China’s largest and wealthiest cities.Source:Supplied

It’s transformation has led it to be dubbed the Silicon Valley of China.

It’s transformation has led it to be dubbed the Silicon Valley of China.Source:Supplied

Mr Bjornsson’s building system can be used to build anything from a Buddhist temple to a multi-storey residential tower using unskilled labour.

He’s used a Queensland government grant to set up a temporary base at Shenzhen’s international science and technology business platform, an incubator for budding entrepreneurs from around the world, to search for Chinese companies to partner with his company Go Evolve.

He’s prepared to take his chances in Shenzhen after what he says has been a raw deal in Australia that’s left his architecture career high and dry.

After migrating from his native Iceland as a qualified architect in 1983, Australia refused to recognise his qualifications, meaning he can’t work as an architect in his adopted country.

“It’s not easy for an immigrant architect to find his feet in Australia,” he says.

“I was insulted immediately when I came to Australia. It’s an incentive to succeed.”

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