Looking to boost its profile in the emerging Chinese market and demonstrate the utility of its instruments in applied markets, Waters has entered into collaborations with several state-run entities aimed at food safety analysis and environmental regulatory compliance.
Although the firm is not disclosing terms of the agreements, the monetary impact is secondary to Waters' hope that it will drive interest in the firm's instruments from other public and private entities within China. "I think that's more or less what it's about," said Brian Murphy, a Waters spokesman.
"Certainly, our relationships mean a lot in China," he told BioCommerce Week." Waters wants to demonstrate that it's fully committed and capable of serving the needs of scientists in China, whether they work at universities, government agencies, or within companies."
Under the agreements announced last week during a ceremony in Beijing, Waters is selling its Acquity UPLC and related mass spectrometers to the China Municipal Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Those institutions are using Waters' instruments to develop food safety and environmental-related applications "unique to China's development," according to a statement.
Waters has been collaborating with these institutions for "some time," Murphy said. He explained that the announcement "was a way to officially solidify the partnership … and say we plan to keep working together in the future.
"They certainly have a mandate to increase their expertise in a lot of areas."
"As we roll out new products, we can anticipate that some of those will be sold into China," he said. "They're looking mainly at developing applications for food safety analysis that will allow the country to comply with the same types of regulations that are in effect in the European Union and in Japan, whether they are importing food into the country or exporting food."
Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has been pouring more money and resources into certain industries, including life and environmental sciences. The Chinese government has expressed a commitment to broadly support scientific efforts in the country, and as part of that goal is expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on scientific research and biotechnology this year alone.
"They certainly have a mandate to increase their expertise in a lot of areas," said Murphy.
In the life sciences space, Waters has similar collaborations in China, he said. He noted a signing ceremony last week in Shanghai involving Waters and Jiao Tong University to publicize a biomarker research collaboration between the two parties.
As part of that pact, the university is setting up the "Shanghai Center for Systems Biomedicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University." Researchers there will use Waters' metabonomics tools, specifically the Acquity UPLC/Q-Tof Premier mass spectrometer with MarkerLynx applications software, to conduct research in the area of traditional Chinese medicine and natural medicine, Murphy said.
Though the collaborations will include Waters' Acquity UPLC system, Murphy said it is not specifically focused on that system, but rather on combined LC and MS systems, such as the Acquity SQD and Acquity TQD systems launched earlier this year.
Waters is one of several BCW Index firms pursuing double-digit revenue growth in China through collaborations, opening new facilities and demonstration centers, or acquisitions. Sigma-Aldrich was the latest of the Index firms to expand its operations in China through the acquisition of Beijing Superior Chemicals and Instruments, as well as through establishing a trading company in the country (see BioCommerce Week 4/5/2005).
Earlier this year, Waters announced plans to cut 70 employees from its staff as part of a restructuring and resource reallocation plan aimed at supporting its growth in Asia (see BioCommerce Week 3/8/2006). "We have to shift more resources for sales, support, and service to our businesses in India and China," Gene Cassis, Waters' vice president for investor relations, told BioCommerce Week at the time.
The firm currently has "more than 100 employees" in China, according to Murphy. That is a far cry from the roughly 1,500 that rival Agilent employs in the country.
In May 2005, Agilent established a training center in Shanghai with the intent of increasing the technical capabilities of the company's customer support teams (see BioCommerce Week 5/19/2005). The Shanghai Training Center is located adjacent to the manufacturing and R&D centers the company set up in that city three years ago.
Also among Waters' chief competitors, Thermo Electron opened a manufacturing facility in Shanghai in early 2005, and followed that with the opening of a demonstration center in the same city later in the year. Overall, Thermo added more than 300 employees in China and India in 2005, and Asia was its top growth region for sales last year.
Meanwhile, PerkinElmer opened a new technology center in Shanghai in late February, with the goal of consolidating its three facilities in the city and bringing together its sales, service, customer care, and technology-support functions. The firm said the center would serve as its regional headquarters for greater China.