Published: 12:51, May 31, 2023 | Updated: 12:51, May 31, 2023
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Zeiss Group mulls greater investment in Chinese mainland
By Zhu Wenqian

A view of the booth of Zeiss Group during an expo in Shanghai. (ZHANG WEI / CHINA DAILY)

Zeiss Group is looking to increase investments in China, the German optical systems and optoelectronics manufacturer said, spurred by growth opportunities stemming from an aging population with vision problems.

The company has stepped up efforts to localize its business in the country, and the launch of various products and solutions related to presbyopia — the gradual inability to see nearby objects with age — and cataracts reflects such a strategy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zeiss said it noticed people spending much longer hours on their electronic devices such as mobile phones. This has significantly affected eye health in various groups of people, leading to a high demand for post-pandemic eye health diagnosis and treatments, it said.

The 177-year-old enterprise, which offers lifetime eye healthcare management, said it has been attracted by the maturity of the Chinese market, particularly the research and development capability in China.

Zeiss said China is becoming an extremely attractive market, and the company is seeing more business opportunities to cooperate with local companies.

"In the last few years, localization has been an important new component of the development of Zeiss in China. When we get to real localization, it is innovation out of China," said Maximilian Foerst, head of Zeiss China. "There's a very active startup scene, and we are cooperating with more established companies and doing joint innovation in many different areas."

Foerst said the company is continuing to strengthen its "manufacturing footprint" in the country.

"We have seen China moving from a market where we sold products first, then developing into a market where we also manufacture products. We have a substantial manufacturing footprint in China, both in the Yangtze River Delta and in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in southern China," he said.

Zeiss recently supported the Seniors University of China in holding a series of science popularization activities about eye health, and invited medical experts for seminars and complimentary eye screenings for the elderly across 10 cities.

China has a population of 264 million people aged 60 and above, according to the latest national census taken in 2021. It is estimated that more than 200 million seniors have been experiencing presbyopia and cataracts, industry insiders said.

Among the elderly aged between 60 and 89, the incidence of getting cataracts is about 80 percent in China, and people may begin to show symptoms of presbyopia from the age of 38, according to the Chinese Ophthalmological Society.

With improvements in living standards and increasingly diverse lifestyles, the elderly have shown a growing proclivity toward using intelligent devices, watching screens, painting and photography, and these require good vision.

"The elderly group has shown a significantly higher demand for good vision quality, but many people have insufficient understanding about eye diseases and treatment methods," said Song Xudong, director of the cataract department at Beijing Tongren Hospital.

"Thanks to the development of intraocular lens, eye issues such as myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia and cataracts can be properly solved by surgical operations. Currently, there is no effective medication to treat or delay the onset of cataracts," Song said.