China S&T News Digest for October 4-10, 2017

China's spending on research and development (R&D) resumed double-digit growth in 2016, closing in on the level of developed countries. R&D spending rose 10.6 percent year on year to 1.57 trillion yuan (234 billion USD) in 2016, 1.7 percentage points higher than the rate in 2015, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. The spending accounted for 2.11 percent of China's GDP, but only at tiny fraction--0.05 percentage points--higher than the 2015 level. Structure of R&D spending improved as more money was given to fundamental research, with high-tech firms and private research firms spending more. Spending on fundamental research remained low compared with developed countries, said Guan Xiaojing, a senior statistician with the NBS.

China's Ministry of Science and Technology has released a report indicating a rapid increase in scientific and technological innovation. The report said the number of full-time equivalent research and development (R&D) personnel in Chinese higher education institutions reached 355,000 by 2015, an increase of 46.7 percent from 2006. R&D funds provided by colleges and universities stood at close to 100 billion yuan (15 billion USD) in 2015, 2.6 times more than in 2006. In 2015, colleges and universities obtained more than 35 billion yuan in research funds from enterprises and public institutions, the report said.

On September 22, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Corridor was established as provincial authorities gave the go-ahead in an official planning, according to the Information Office of People's Government of Guangdong Province. The 180-odd-km long economic belt covering an area of 11,000 sq km in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Dongguan will get a boost to grow into China's Silicon Valley. With the best innovation resources accumulated during the past 40 years of China's reform and opening up, the corridor will be the nation's major innovation engine and gateway for the province to connect global innovation trends.

China has risen rapidly to become the world's second-largest performer and today accounts for 20 percent of global R&D expenditure, according to the US National Science Board. While the United States still leads the market with a 27 percent share, this figure is down from almost 33 percent a few years ago. Trump's failure to appoint a presidential science advisor is just the latest indication that he lacks a detailed understanding of the strategic importance of S&T--or the determination to give it sufficient priority. With the science community lacking leadership and facing significant budget cuts, how can the United States be expected to prepare a national response to the scientific opportunities and technical challenges of the 21st century?

Zhangjiang Lab, co-built by the city government and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, opened on September 26. The lab is the city's latest step in moving towards becoming a global hub of innovation and science. Peter Littlewood, a former director of the Argonne National Laboratory in the United States, spoke with Shanghai Daily's Zhang Ningning and other reporters during the Pujiang Innovation Forum (September 22-25) and shared his insights on the role of national laboratories in boosting science and technology innovation and suggestions for the city's ambition to build a national laboratory. 

Shang Weiping founded his own company when he was a 28-year-old graduate student at the technology-focused Xidian University in Xian. His firm, Sharpen Info Tech, has developed and patented a communication technology that does not rely on pre-existing infrastructure, a form of decentralized wireless network that works without routers or access points. The next step is to take that technology from the laboratory stage to large-scale commercial use. That might sound easy in a city bent on becoming a major technology hub, one of 17 recently singled out as such by the State Council and allowed to offer favorable policies to spur innovation. But a lack of local industries suitable for his product--or "applicable scenarios"--means Shang has found it difficult  to commercialize it on any reasonable scale. 

A Chinese Long March 2D rocket launched Venezuela's second Earth-observing surveillance satellite, adding a new space-based reconnaissance asset the country's government says it will use to aid security forces, emergency responders, farmers, and health professionals. The two-stage, 134-foot-tall (41-meter) Long March 2D booster took off at 0413 GMT (12:13 a.m. EDT) Monday from the remote Jiuquan space base in the Gobi Desert in northwest China, according to China Great Wall Industry Corp., the government-owned company chartered to sell Chinese rockets and satellites on the global market.

China seeks to enhance its capacity for scientific and technological innovation by building a large modular space station. Chinese leaders also hope that research conducted on the Chinese Space Station (CSS) will support their long-term goals for space exploration, including missions to the Moon and Mars. This web page offers insight into the development of the CSS, compares China's space station with those of other countries, and explores how China may use manned space missions to bolster domestic innovation.

Chinese scientists working on the 500m FAST telescope have announced the discovery of two new pulsars, marking the first confirmed finds from the world's largest radio telescope. The new pulsars PSR J1859-01 and PSR J1931-02, also referred to as FAST pulsar #1 and #2, were detected on August 22 and 25 and were confirmed by the Parkes telescope in Australia on September 10.


There is a powerful reason that automakers worldwide are speeding up their efforts to develop electric vehicles--and that reason is China. Propelled by vast amounts of government money and visions of dominating next-generation technologies, China has become the world's biggest supporter of electric cars. That is forcing automakers from Detroit to Yokohama and Seoul to Stuttgart to pick up the pace of transformation or risk being left behind in the world's largest car market.

Last week, the Chinese team that sparked a worldwide debate in 2015 when it reported the first use of CRISPR to edit a human embryo's genome notched another first. In early embryos, they showed that a new CRISPR variant, which chemically modifies rather than cuts DNA, can correct the mutation causing a debilitating blood disease. But the most striking evidence of progress in China can be found on the database: Of the 10 listed trials of CRISPR in patients, nine are in China, where streamlined safety and ethical reviews have given researchers a head start. Three of the groups confirmed to Science that they are infusing cancer patients with their own immune cells modified using CRISPR.
China Hastens Drug Approval with Embrace of Foreign Data | Financial Times (requires subscription)

China will allow the use of data from overseas clinical trials for approvals of new drugs, in a move likely to enable multinationals to bring products to the world's second-largest pharmaceutical market more quickly. Pharmaceutical approvals in China can take up to seven years longer than in Europe and the United States due to a requirement that overseas trials be at an advanced stage before Chinese trials can begin. The China drugs market generated $117b in sales last year, according to the QuintilesIMS consultancy. But companies will, in some cases, now be allowed to avoid Chinese trials altogether by using data gathered overseas, the ruling Communist party's Central Committee said.
Produced by the IGCC Project on the
Study of Innovation & Technology in China

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