Annual R&D budget allocates extra funds for industry and academia


Hepeng Jia/Beijing, China 

Chinese scientists are to benefit from a significant boost in research funding, revealed Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual meeting of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).  

In his report to the NPC on 5 March, Wen said that the central government’s budget for science and technology will rise by 25.6 per cent to 146.1 billion yuan (US$21.5 billion). 

Researchers in Chinese companies will also benefit from the government’s 4 trillion yuan aid package to protect the economy from the global financial crisis. According to Zhang Ping, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, 210 billion yuan will be used for sustainability projects and 370 billion yuan for technological advances and industry restructuring. 

Wen says that the government will also quicken the implementation of 16 planned key science and technology programmes. Nine of these are non-military in nature, and will benefit from nearly 70 billion yuan by 2020 (Chemistry World, January 2009, pC2). 

According to Wen, new forms of energy, life science, pharmaceuticals development, third generation telecommunications and energy saving industries will all be prioritised for development. Additional support will also be available to researchers in a bid to attract top talent to the country (Chemistry World, March 2009, pC3).  

Wan Gang, minister of science and technology, says increased investment from central government will help prompt local governments and enterprises to pour more funds into research. 

Last year, science and technology spending by central government was 116.3 billion yuan, up 16.4 per cent. Meanwhile, total R&D investment in China reached 457 billion yuan. 

Zeng Guoping, science policy researcher at Tsinghua University, says that two main factors have driven this dramatic growth. The first is an effort to stimulate the economy through science and technology, and the second is the aim for R&D to account for 2 per cent of gross domestic product as outlined in the mid- to long-term science and technology development plan. Last year, this figure was 1.52 per cent.  

’In the short term, it is necessary to increase research spending to boost the economy, but it is also necessary to coordinate other long-term fields such as basic research,’ Zeng told Chemistry World  . 

There have long been calls to increase funding for basic research, but in 2008 fundamental science only accounted for 4.4 per cent of total R&D spending.