China / Government

New plan gives innovation top priority

By ZHANG YUE and HU YONGQI ( Updated: 2016-07-21 16:27

China aims to become an innovation powerhouse by 2020, according to a newly adopted national plan on scientific and technological innovation during the 13th Five Year Plan period (2016-20).

The plan was approved on Wednesday at a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

"This is the first sub-plan under the 13th Five Year Plan that has been held for discussion, which fully demonstrates that we’ve given top priority to innovation," Li said.

The plan says China is to further advance its global ranking of innovation competence with the country’s combined efforts in enhancing innovation, building key science innovation parks and attracting top-tier science and technology researchers.

Under the 2015 Global Innovation Index, released in September last year by the World Intellectual Property Organization, China ranked 29th among 141 surveyed economies.

China surpassed Japan in 2013 to become the world’s second-largest investor in technological innovation, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

The new innovation plan was drafted by the Ministry of Science and Technology over the past two years with suggestions from related departments.

According to the plan, the country will begin implementing a series of key scientific and technological innovation projects. It puts research emphasis on areas that will contribute to China’s industrial upgrading and new economy, including modern agriculture, clean and efficient energy and fifth-generation mobile telecommunication. A number of innovation zones will be established, with Beijing and Shanghai pioneering the effort.

"Science and technology innovation should always keep a close eye on application," Li said.

Since 2013, the government has repeatedly highlighted the importance of innovation, providing support and encouraging mass innovation and business startups.

Innovation is considered to be vital to the economy, which is shifting from being driven by investment and manufacturing to being more consumption- and service-based. Domestic consumption contributed 73.4 percent to GDP growth in the first half of the year, NBS figures show.

Business startups in China with innovative ideas and investment have flourished. Some recent homegrown innovations have greatly changed people’s lives, such as the mobile messaging app WeChat, which offers a user experience that rivals international competitors.

The plan also singles out measures to tackle particular obstacles that have long been hindering science and technological innovation. These include a more systematic transfer of technology from research institutions to companies; reform of the management system for science and technology; better coordination to improve resource distribution; and intellectual property rights protection.

"The case for overhauling science and research systems and generating greater enthusiasm among science and technology researchers is very strong if we mean to enable true breakthroughs in innovation," Li said.

Technological innovations are needed to boost China’s economic vitality and international competitiveness, which demand adequate financial inputs, integration with market demand, and education that encourages new ideas, said Liu Bing, a professor at the Institute of Science, Technology and Society at Tsinghua University.