ThingsCon goes Shenzhen

Why this trip?

In November 2016, Peter Bihr (ThingsCon Berlin) and Marcel Schouwenaar (ThingsCon Amsterdam) – along with a team of makers and thinkers involved with ThingsCon – visited Shenzhen, a Chinese Special Economic Zone just across the border with Hong Kong. The reason for their visit was to witness first hand how innovation in the domain of Internet of Things (IoT) takes place in this region. Why this particular region? Because Shenzhen is the global intersection of everything concerning hardware: it is the electronics factory of the world. More than 90% of all electronics are manufactured in this sprawling city. And that includes the emerging category of internet connected products.

Any maker, product designer or hardware developer around the world knows Shenzhen. It is known for being the area where all things like smartphones are manufactured and assembled, but it is equally known for the widespread copycat practices and production of cheap knockoffs; better known as Shanzhai. There is however much more to Shenzhen then this dichotomy. Due to a vibrant maker scene and the informal open innovation culture, combined with readily available resources, capital and manufacturing capacity, the Shenzhen ecosystem is churning out innovations at an astonishing speed. In a documentary on Future Cities, Wired named Shenzhen the The Silicon Valley of Hardware.

Last year, David Li, director of the Shenzhen Innovation Lab, invited the organization of ThingsCon to visit Shenzhen and explore how the local ecosystem of makers, manufacturers, suppliers, and accelerators could contribute to the development of a responsible Internet of Things. From our exploration we learned there is ample opportunity for collaboration between the European IoT-community and the Shenzhen ecosystem. Nowhere in the world, you can find such a perfect storm for Internet of Things innovation. And when navigated well, designers can sail that storm, collaborating with the Shenzhen ecosystem and develop interesting and exemplary IoT projects.

By organizing a 5-day research trip we aim to connect about 20 Dutch designers with makers, thinkers and linchpins in the Shenzhen hardware ecosystem.
Participating in this research trip will be inspiring and a launchpad to develop projects that contribute to our mission.

During the trip we will visit places, companies, events and organizations relevant to the creation of connected products. The focus is creating a better understanding of how the open innovation culture in Shenzhen works and how Dutch designers can connect with that process.

The trip is scheduled to last 5 days from 23-29 April. This coincides with the Shenzhen Design Week (21-28 April) and the ThingsCon Shenzhen conference that will take place on the 27th of April.



Program of the trip

The trip is scheduled to last 5 days from 23-29 April. This coincides with the Shenzhen Design Week. In this time the following activities will take place:

Day 1; 24 April; Arriving & introduction

Arrival in Hong Kong, transfer to Shenzhen
Welcome sessions at
SIDA (Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Associaton),
SFDP (Sino-Finnish Design Park),
SZOIL (Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab)

Day 2; 25 April; Exploring the ecosystem

Tour at Foxconn,
Tour Huaqiangbei, the famous Shenzhen component malls.

Evening: Dinner with local makers

Day 3; 26 April; Maker & startup culture

Visit Makerspaces:
– Troublemakers
Visit hardware startup accelerator (HAX)
Meet startups creating hardware products

Evening: Visit one of the many meetups (tbd)

Day 4; 27 April; ThingsCon Shenzhen

Visit the Thingscon Shenzhen Event. Focus on:

  • Ethical IoT

  • Open innovation

  • Manufacturing & designers collaboration

Day 5; 28 April; Shenzhen Design Week

Visit Shenzhen Design week, Tour design market

Evening: free

Day 6: 29 April; return home

Transfer to Hong Kong



Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL), is a space and platform for worldwide makers to communicate and cooperate. SZOIL was established by SIDA and Maker Collider and is also the first Fab Lab in Shenzhen authorised by MIT as a research and development partner.

Just Things Foundation, has made a trip to Shenzhen in 2016 together with ThingsCon. Their experiences are the basis for this trip.



We offer this trip for 1500 euros incl costs for hotel, excursions, entries, interpreters etc., excluding travel costs (flight to Hong Kong, transfer to Shenzhen).

Interested? Fill in this form if you want to know more, or already want to apply for the trip. Let us know before March 3.