About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Over the past decade China has shifted rapidly from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, with technology and innovation a major policy focus. It is becoming a leading country in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) across key industries.

AI relies heavily on data for machine learning and predictive analytics, and China has no shortage of data with its 1.4 billion population constantly generating massive amounts of it in real time. The Chinese people have also shown themselves to be eager users of technology and early adopters of AI.

In healthcare, China, like many other countries, is facing the formidable challenge of providing easy access to affordable and high-quality services for its ageing population. With its use of AI combined with readily available medical and biometric data, China is on its way to providing personalised healthcare to more people at a lower cost, while keeping them healthier in the first place through continuous monitoring and alerts. It is also using AI to assist medical professionals in decision-making, track patient outcomes, reduce physician workload and speed up drug development. China’s investment in AI and healthcare over the past few years is now helping it deal with the coronavirus crisis, explored further in a case study in this essay.

While privacy around medical data is a clear issue that requires appropriate regulation, there are lessons for European policymakers in China’s ‘experiment and innovate first’ approach to AI and its appreciation that time to market is crucial if medical innovation is not to be stifled.


Andy Chun

Adjunct professor at City University of Hong Kong and council member and convenor of the AI Specialist Group, Hong Kong Computer Society