[In the Media] Driving technological progress



 March 11,2024


At the two sessions, many deputies to the National People's Congress and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee have emphasized the importance of promoting technological innovation, because it is key to achieving long-term economic growth.

Traditionally, universities and research institutions have played a pivotal role in driving technological advancement and innovations, and served as crucial hubs where cutting-edge research goes hand in hand with the cultivation of talents, creating a fertile ground for groundbreaking discoveries and technological breakthroughs. As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, it is important to unleash the full potential of these universities and institutions in shaping the future of science and technology.

But how can the innovation capacity of universities and research institutes be enhanced? To answer this question, we have to explore three key strategies: matching investment with improvement in education, deepening collaboration between academia and industry, and leading the charge in identifying and pursuing key technological frontiers.

To begin with, matching investment with improvement in education is essential to ensure the sustainable development of research institutions and universities, which over the years have faced challenges in aligning research funding with the need to enhance scientific exploration. While overall research funding has seen a steady growth, it has failed to keep pace with the increasing demand for organized research in universities.

Stable research funding is the cornerstone of innovation, providing scientists, both accomplished and budding, with the assurance needed to engage in research. Excessive competitive funding could turn research from goal-oriented to project-oriented studies, impacting the long-term development and advancement of research, and weakening scientists' efforts to tackle challenges and preventing research from achieving revolutionary innovations.

Therefore, there is a need to improve coordination among the central and local governments, universities and enterprises to build a stable funding system and ensure better allocation of resources. It is also important to establish a stable and diversified funding mechanism that would support research across different disciplines. Such a funding mechanism would promote innovation, by providing researchers with the resources and financial security needed to pursue ambitious projects.

Besides, by diversifying the sources of funding — which include the central and local governments, and universities, research institutions and private enterprises — a sustainable funding ecosystem covering different phases and levels of research and groups of researchers can be created.

Second, deepening collaboration between academia and industry is necessary to promote innovation and bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and industrial application of research results. The symbiotic relationship between universities and industries serves as a catalyst for technological innovation, allowing researchers to leverage industry expertise and resources to translate theoretical knowledge into practical solutions. The successful collaboration between Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Huawei in developing the HarmonyOS system is a typical example of successful university-enterprise cooperation.

By fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge exchange, universities can open up new avenues for innovation and accelerate the pace of technological advancement. Collaborative research initiatives, joint laboratories and technology transfer programs serve as invaluable platforms for facilitating collaboration between academia and industry, and developing innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Due to the cooperation and collaboration between universities and industries, teachers can join enterprises without leaving their teaching positions, and their work can be assessed even when they are not physically present on the campus. This flexibility enables talents to balance academic research and industrial application of research results.

Moreover, by promoting the seamless flow of talents between academia and industry, universities can cultivate a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers equipped with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to overcome complex technological challenges. Such an interdisciplinary approach to research will not only foster innovation, but also sharpen the competitive edge of both academia and industry in the global marketplace.

And third, identifying and pursuing key technological frontiers is necessary to maintain a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving field of science and technology. In an era characterized by rapid technological advancements and disruptive innovations, it is crucial for universities and research institutions to stay ahead of the curve and foresee emerging trends and opportunities. To gain a competitive edge in high-tech, there may be a need to establish competitive barriers in certain fields in order to have what others lack, excel in fields which perhaps others dominate, and enjoy unique advantages in areas in which others are superior.

For example, in the global battery trade, lithium batteries occupy the top spot in exports, while China has the highest number of patents on lithium battery. China's leading position in lithium batteries owes much to the sustained development of the electrochemistry sector in China and the stagnation of research in electrochemistry in Western countries, which has resulted in declining output in those countries.

But while identifying strategic high grounds, it's crucial to not only focus on global hotspots and the gaps in technology, but also have a strategic layout and the determination to move forward. The idea is to adhere to the path of technological innovation with Chinese characteristics.

Hence, it is imperative that we cultivate not only a new generation of visionary scientists in strategic fields but also talents in cutting-edge technologies. Such concerted efforts will pave the way for the development of a group of individuals with the strategic foresight to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. By doing so, we can become trailblazers, as well as self-reliant in advanced technologies.

Source: China Daily

Editor on Duty: Tao Qingxiao

Responsible Editor: Jiang Qianqian, Li Xinyu