The final week of our study trip started gently by getting picked up at 8.15 am by bus. After an hour of driving we arrived at the Jiangnan ancient town Zhujiajiao. The Zhujiajiao ancient town is located in suburb of Shanghai city. The little fan-shaped town has more than 1700 years of history. In this village we have visited the Kezhi Garden which represents a property of a wealthy family 100 years ago. Large spacious houses, surrounded by small lakes, ricefields and bridges showed impressively how they must have lived. After the visit of this garden, we got some free time to explore the village any further on our own.
The main attraction in Zhujiajiao is the Caogang River which keeps the village alive. The citizens organize boat tours and deliver the local market in the village via the water. The market basically winds through the whole village and offers Chinese food specialties such as pork legs, frogs, shrimps and fish as well as traditional clothing and various accessories. The group individually ate lunch in the village to be strengthened to meet after noon at the village-entrance to head for our first company visit of the week.
Another one-hour bus-trip brought us to the local Research Center of Saint-Gobain, a multi-national Company with French origins which is one of the Worlds Top100 industrial corporations. Saint-Gobain is best known to research, develop and produce parts for construction and building. After a warm welcome of Site-General-Manager Muthu Jeevanantham and an interesting company-presentation we were taken to a site-tour. Therefore we experienced a look into a modern and state-of-the-art research lab which engages around 250 employees where from roughly a quarter are from each of the three degrees bachelor, master and PHD. The employees age averages at 32 years which means they are a very young and well-skilled team.
After the tour we went on to have an insight to one of Saint-Gobain’s subsidiaries here in Shanghai, Saint-Gobain Sekurit, a leading manufacturer of car glazing. We had an exclusive tour through their large factory where several millions of car glass parts are produces every year. Our impression of the factory is that the site is highly automatic, modern and well-equipped.
Overall, it was an interesting day with a good mix of cultural and business impressions. A lot of us had a first significant insight in a research lab where parts of Chinas future leading innovation will come from.