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China offers ‘really good opportunity’ for east’s food and drink sector

PUBLISHED: 11:17 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:28 01 February 2018

From left, speaker Prof Dr Detlef Nauck, chief research scientist at BT Technology in Martlesham, and Doug Field, chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters in Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

From left, speaker Prof Dr Detlef Nauck, chief research scientist at BT Technology in Martlesham, and Doug Field, chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters in Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

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The growing Chinese market offers a ‘really good opportunity’ for East Anglia’s food and drink sector, a government official said as he attended an industry event in Ipswich.

LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB LinksEast lunch at East of England Co-op's headquarters at Wherstead. Picture: DAVID WEBB

Thinley Topden, deputy regional director for the East of England at the Department for international Trade, said the region had “lots of strengths”, including significant ones in agri-tech, energy and technology across Norfolk and Suffolk, and there was a “real appetite for collaboration” on the Chinese side.

Mr Topden was at a LinksEast event on Wednesday, January 31, aimed at encouraging the region’s food and drink sector to trade with China which coincided with a visit to the country by prime minister Theresa May. He visited the country just a few months ago and said he was struck by how savvy the population was with digital technology.

“We see that as a really good opportunity for British companies,” he said, adding that there were both export and inward investment opportunities.

“More broadly across the region, food and drink is obviously a really big sector for us and interestingly a really good opportunity in China,” he said. “Our exports of things like whisky, port products, live shellfish and crabs, these things have really exploded in terms of exports to China.”

Outside of the US, the UK is the biggest destination for foreign investment, while China is the UK’s fifth largest export market, and is growing rapidly.

Dr Detlef Nauck, chief research scientist at BT Technology, based at Martlesham, Ipswich, told delegates about developments in artificial intelligence (AI), much of which had already been integrated into ordinary people’s lives. However, ‘human-level’ intelligence wasn’t really on the cards, he said, although virtual assistance would become advanced.

The challenges in adopting the technologies wasn’t technical, as much as making people aware of the possibilities which exist, he added. “Try to learn as much as possible - not so much about the technology, but about the opportunities,” he advised. “It’s a very exciting area.”

“The potential for AI is immense’” said New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) chair Doug Field adding that the region’s ambition was to be “an internationally facing economy”.

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