China aims to cement position as scientific powerhouse with increased government spending on R&D

In a bid to spark local innovation to strengthen the country’s growth, China has announced plans to invest more on research and development, increasing expenditure to 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2020.

The central government made the announcement this week in conjunction with the release of a blueprint outlining its 13th five-year plan for research and development (R&D).

According to official data, the country spent over 1.4 trillion yuan (US$211 billion), or 2.1 percent, of its GDP on R&D in 2015.

China’s Cabinet, known as the State Council, said the latest blueprint aimed to expand the country’s research capacity and get it ranked among the top 15 most innovative countries in the world by 2020.

In 2011, China made 18th place in a global innovation ranking developed by the state-supported Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.

The blueprint also outlined the various ways R&D could be funded, particularly through the equity market, something which had previously not been discussed as most research projects have been funded by the government, said Xu Liang, an official from the Ministry of Science and Technology, as quoted by Xinhua news agency.

The economic powerhouse has seen a slowdown in growth lately, which has galvanized the government into looking for solutions to get the economy back on its feet.

The State Council said that high-tech services helped bolster the economy’s GDP last year, contributing up to 15 percent. It added that this was expected to rise to almost 20 percent by 2020.

The document heralded R&D as the new way forward, as Chinese scientists have pushed forward new innovations in high-speed rail systems, global positioning technology, hybrid rice development, and fourth-generation telecommunication technology, reported TODAY Online.

For example, a homegrown global satellite navigation system known as Beidou or “Big Dipper,” similar to the United States’ GPS or Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass), is scheduled to be completed by 2020.

The State Council also intends to increase the number of citations for academic papers written by Chinese scientists.

Internationally, China currently ranks second for total number of research papers published in journals; however, it only ranks fourth when it comes to the frequency they are cited.

As part of the plan, the Cabinet also hopes to double the number of patents per 10,000 people in China by 2020 compared to the figure in 2015.

Besides turning China into a “scientific powerhouse”, the blueprint means to explore new ways to enable reforms on the supply side through innovation, said Xu, adding that this was in line with the Communist Party’s ruling during its national conference last year to make innovation a top priority.

Image via Flickr

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