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China Science and Technology Newsletter (No. 20-21)


Special Issue: China’s National S&T Programs

² National S&T Major Projects

² National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program)

² National Hi-tech R&D Program (863 Program)

² National Key Technologies R&D Program

² International S&T Cooperation Program of China

² National S&T Innovation Base Program

² Policy Guidance Programs and Other Funds

² Innovative Talents Development Program

² National Natural Science Foundation of China and Innovation Fund for Technology-based Firms

Special Issue: China’s National S&T Programs

China’s national scientific and technological (S&T) programs include National S&T Major Projects, National Basic Research Program, National Hi-tech Research and Development (R&D) Program, National Key Technologies R&D Program, International S&T Cooperation Program, Policy Guidance Programs, National S&T Innovation Base Program and other programs. Moreover, in 1980-1990s, the State Council approved the establishment of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and Innovation Fund for Technology-based Firms, giving strong support to basic research and the development of SMEs.

The national S&T programs, administrated by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), fund projects selected through peer review, while NSFC is an independent foundation offering funds for basic research in natural science.

The national S&T programs set overall deployment for strategic R&D and S&T activities in the following nine aspects: 1) Major strategic projects and key and common technologies that are closely associated with national development goals; 2) Strategic basic research for the demand of national development and basic research based on free thinking of scientists; 3) R&D, integrated application and industrialized demonstration of frontier technologies; 4) R&D and demonstration of industrial generic technologies that provide solutions to major S&T problems in the course of economic development as well as technologies for public welfare; 5) International S&T cooperation and exchanges involving enterprises, universities and research institutes under bilateral and multilateral inter-governmental cooperation framework; 6) Major S&T innovation bases; 7) Projects concerning agriculture, industry, commercialization of research findings and development of research infrastructure in accordance with national S&T policies; 8) Innovative Personnel Cultivation Project; 9) Two National funds: National Natural Science Foundation of China and Innovation Fund for Technology-based Firms.

1. National S&T Major Projects

The Outline of National Medium- and Long-term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) (MLP) states that in the priority topics defined in key areas, focuses are further narrowed and a number of specific R&D projects involving strategically important products, key and common technologies and important engineering projects are selected in line with national goals. These projects are designed to make breakthroughs in key areas, by taking full advantage of the socialist system in pooling resources for big undertakings and the role of the market economy, in a bid to achieve quantum leaps in productivity.

The selected projects fall into the following categories:

1) strategic industries that are closely linked to the major needs of the nation’s economic and social development, capable of coming up with core proprietary intellectual property rights, and substantially boosting innovativeness of enterprises; 2) key and common technologies that can drive the improvement of the overall industrial competitiveness; 3) projects that are aimed at overcoming major bottlenecks constraining economic and social development; 4) activities that combine civilian and defense purposes and are of strategic importance to national security and improvement of comprehensive national strength; 5) efforts that conform with the nation’s circumstances and fall within the limits of its resources.

Based on these principles, a number of major R&D projects have been selected to promote high-tech industry development and traditional industry upgrading, resolve bottlenecks on economic development, improve public health, and safeguard national security. These projects will be launched upon further review and approval on a case-by-case basis, in light of the nation’s needs and the readiness for implementation. Meanwhile, these projects will be adjusted dynamically along with the nation’s evolving strategic needs and circumstances, and will be implemented in a well-paced manner. For the projects aiming to develop strategic products, enterprises are expected to be the principal player in the R&D and investment. Major equipment is what to start with in enterprises’ technological innovation, and a more market-based approach will be adopted in allocating S&T resources. Meanwhile, the investment by the government, which acts as a catalyst for more input from businesses, will be mainly used to develop key technologies.

Major R&D projects are designed to develop strategic products or key technologies, or complete important engineering projects within a timeframe by making technological breakthroughs and pooling resources, in a bid to meet the nation’s goals. For this reason, they hold the key to the nation’s development of science and technology. 16 such projects have been identified in the MLP, including core electronic devices, high-end generic chips and basic software, super large-scale integrated circuit manufacturing and associated techniques, next-generation broadband mobile telecommunication, high-grade CNC machine tools and basic manufacturing technology, large oil-gas field and coal-bed methane development, large advanced pressurized water reactors and high-temperature gas-coolant reactor nuclear power stations, water pollution control and treatment, new genetically modified varieties, major new drugs, prevention and treatment of major infectious diseases such as HIV/ADIS and viral hepatitis, large passenger aircrafts, high-resolution earth observation systems, manned space flights, and the moon probe. They cover a range of strategic sectors including information and biotechnology, pressing issues concerning energy, resources, environment and public health.

2. National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program)

On June 4th 1997, the third meeting of the former National Science and Technology Steering Group decided to formulate and implement the National Basic Research Development Plan, and later, the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) was implemented by MOST. The purpose of the Program is to strengthen original innovation, resolve major scientific problems concerning socio-economic development, enhance China’s capacity in innovation and in resolving major problems and provide scientific support to boost future development.

The major missions:

1) launch cross-disciplinary research and provide theoretical proof and scientific bases for resolving socio-economic problems concerning agriculture, energy, information, resource, environment, population, health and material; 2) carry out relevant, critical and explorative basic research; 3) cultivate personnel with good scientific knowledge and innovation capacity; 4) establish high-level scientific research bases that undertake major scientific tasks and build cross-disciplinary research centers.

The projects in the 973 Program are those require national effor