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Innovation in China

April 2014

Innovation has been a Leitmotiv for China’s government over the past decade, as it aims to “…join the ranks of innovative countries, thus paving the way for becoming a world S&T power by mid-21st century”.

There are several definitions for the term “innovation” or “innovative activities” depending on the context, and the following seems well suited for the purpose of this report : “Innovative activities refers to the creation, adaptation and adoption of new or improved products, processes, or services (European Commission, 2000). Note, that it includes the words “adaptation” and “adoption”.

In order to reach the goals set, the government has decided on a combination of approaches, has formulated policies and launched a number of programs and reforms.
The aim of this report written for the IHEST is to give the reader an idea of the scope and extent of the actions taken, and provide some concrete examples.

This report is divided into two parts :

• Part I briefly describes the key areas targeted for innovation and how the government is encouraging innovation. It also gives an overview on the institutions, which play a key role in drawing up and implementing innovation policies.

• Part II discusses some of the key domains targeted by the Government and the concrete approaches made : the examples chosen each highlight a different aspect, a challenge or process regarding innovation and its implementation.

Biotechnology, energy and the pharmaceutical industry, which are all mentioned in Part II, have also been the subject of separate reports written for the IHEST. They can be freely accessed from its website.

Part 1 : Key areas and governement actions

Is innovation an important issue for the Chinese government ?

Very much so. Of course, reform processes started in the late 1970’s with Deng Xiao Ping, but the emphasis on innovation, clearly stated in policy documents, began much later : In 2006, the State Council (the highest executive organ of state power) published “The National Medium-and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) “ (MLP for short), which lists two priorities : promoting S&T development in certain key areas and enhancing innovation capacity.

The Leitmotiv is “indigenous innovation”, which is defined as “enhancing original innovation, integrated innovation, and re-innovation based on assimilation and absorption of imported technology, in order to improve our national innovation capability”.

The MLP states that “building an innovation-oriented country is therefore a major strategic choice for China’s future development”. A number of other plans and policies emphasizing innovation followed suit.
And even recently (September 2013), China’s president Xi JinPing reinforced its importance at a meeting of the CCP Politburo with the theme of “Innovation driven growth strategy”.

References :

Medium- and Long-term National Plan for Science and Technology Development 2006-2020. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.

President Xi reemphasises innovation-driven development strategy in Politburo. 30/09/2013.

Wayne M. Morrison. China’s Economic Rise : History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States. Congressional Research Service. 03/02/2014.

What are the areas targeted for innovation ?

The MLP lists a number of key areas, which form the research and innovation priorities over the 15-year period. They are divided into fields, topics, special programs, frontier technologies, basic science questions and 4 research plans. They can also be found in the 12th Five-Year Plan for S&T Development (2011-2015) and include :

• Biotechnology
• Energy
• Environment
• ICT (Integrated Circuit Technology)
• Industrial production
• Materials
• Nanosciences and nanotechnologies
• Food agriculture and fisheries
• Health
• Transport

References

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.

Le 12ème plan quinquennal pour la science et la technologie. La France en Chine – Ambassade de France. 20/12/2012.

The 12th FYP (in Chinese).

Which are the key decision making institutions on innovation ?

As will be discussed below, China is encouraging innovation through a number of measures, involving fiscal policies, human resource policies, laws on intellectual property, research programs, funds and the reform of the public S&T institutions.

This figure gives an overview of the institutions involved :

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Chinese Innovation Policy Institutions (Can Huang et al. 2004).

In China, the institutions making the policies are the same as the ones implementing them (similar to the UK). For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is the leading ministry in S&T policy design and is also the main implementation unit ; it runs S&T programs and provides funds to R&D activities.

References

• Can Huang, Celeste Amorim, Mark Spinoglio, Borges Gouveia and Augusto Medina. Organization, Program, and Structure : An Analysis of the Chinese Innovation Policy Framework. R&D Management 34 (2004) 367–387.
• OECD Reviews of Innovation Policy : China. OECD. 18/08/2008.
Yin Li. Erawatch Country Reports 2012 : China. 31/08/2013.

How are policies made and coordinated ?

China has a highly centralized (and hierarchical) system and decision-making is a top-to-down process. Typically, the State (through MOST or the Science Council) sets up a group of experts from Universities, CAS (the Chinese Academy of Science) or research institutes under various ministries, to decide on a course of action on a particular issue.

Interestingly, the industry does not actively take part in this process.

The experts will propose a policy, which is then promulgated through the Science Council or MOST.

References

Erawatch China Governance structure.
Yin Li. Erawatch Country Reports 2012 : China. 31/08/2013.

Are all policies equally important ?

No, there is a hierarchy, where policies made by the State Council have a greater importance than policies by MOST, which in turn are more influential than policies from other ministries.
Policies gain in importance, if they are jointly implemented by more than one ministry.
There are also national and regional policies. The latter generally reflect the contents of the former, but regional governments have a certain degree of freedom and are expected to adapt them to regional specificities and requirements.

References

Erawatch China Governance structure.
Erawatch China Regional policies.
Yin Li. Erawatch Country Reports 2012 : China. 31/08/2013.

How is the Chinese Government encouraging innovation ?

The government aims to profoundly reform the Chinese R&D system, which is highly detached from the industry. A number of public S&T institutions has been transformed into enterprises or non-profit organizations and this process is on-going.

In 1995, the Science Council decided to create 100 top universities in the 21st century through the so-called 211 Program. The government has created research programs, which fund research projects, introducing evaluation-based funding, two important programs being the National High Tech R&D Program (or 863 Program) and the National Basic Research Program (or 973 Program).
Individual talents are fostered through a number of scholarship programs.
The collaboration between research institutes/ universities and the industry is also encouraged financially.
About 80 science parks have so far been created offering cheap space and fiscal advantages, with the aim to attract foreign as well as domestic companies. Fiscal policies like tax cuts have been implemented.

In 2009, the Chinese State created twenty venture capital funds in cooperation with local governments for a total of RMB 10.2 billion. FDI (foreign direct investment) has been and is still being encouraged.

In 2006, the State Council published a “Notice of supporting policies Guo Fa [2006] No. 6” for the MLP. Several measures regarding innovative products are outlined. Initially, a link was established between indigenous innovation and government procurement preferences and certain key projects were required to spend at least 60% of their budget for equipment purchases on domestic innovative products. These measures were revoked in 2011 at national level but seem to persist at sub-national and local levels.

References

• Can Huang, Celeste Amorim, Mark Spinoglio, Borges Gouveia and Augusto Medina. Organization, Program, and Structure : An Analysis of the Chinese Innovation Policy Framework. R&D Management 34 (2004) 367–387.
Notice of supporting policies Guo Fa [2006] No.6 (in Chinese).
Domestic Innovation and Procurement. US-China Business Council. 01/05/2010.
Domestic Innovation and Government Procurement Policies. US-China Business Council. 01/10/2011.
• The Pharmaceutical Industry and China – Q&A. IHEST. 16/04/2013.
Status Report : China’s Innovation and Government Procurement Policies. US-China Business Council. 01/05/2013.
Special Issue : China’s National S&T Programs. China Science and Technology Newsletter (2014 n° 1).
Technology Business Incubators in China. China Science and Technology Newsletter (2014 n° 2).
S&T Programs. MOST.
Science Parks in Asia. UNESCO.
Erawatch website China.

Are all regions in China benefitting equally from the innovation measures ?

No. Traditionally, China has had an unequal distribution of research institutions, physical and human capital resources, which tend to be concentrated in the Eastern, coastal areas.

In 2005, the Eastern region performed 72.4% of R&D, the mid region 14.9%, and the Western region 12.7%. In particular, Beijing performed 15% of total R&D and Shanghai performed 8.5% of R&D.
As funds will be allocated to successful research institutions or outstanding individuals, this geographical disparity continues to increase.

The result is what Prof Hu Angang called “One China Four Worlds”)(referring to the World Bank’s method for classifying regions according to their purchasing power parity).

From the beginning of the “opening up” of China under Deng Xiao Ping, the motto was “Let a few people get rich first” (让一部分人先富起来, Ràng yībùfèn rén xiān fù qǐlái), but a number of initiatives have been taken to improve the situation in the poorer and less-developed regions.

The 11th FYP (2006-2011) and more in particular the Western Development 11th FYP emphasize the development in a number of key areas, including the high-tech industry. Another priority is education (“develop high-level talent”, encouraging talent exchange and training of qualified personnel), which is also a priority of the “Modern Distance Education Project for Rural Primary and Secondary Schools” which was started in 2003 by the Chinese central government and aims at improving in rural areas the qualification and education of teachers and pupils alike.

References

Erawatch China Regional research policies.
• One China, Many Paths, edited by Chaohua Wang, Verso Books, 2005. ISBN : 1844675351.
• Deng Xiao Ping, 18th-22nd December 1978 in Beijing at the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (十一届三中全会 Shíyī jiè sān zhōng quánhuì) (http://news.xinhuanet.com/ziliao/2004-10/28/content_2148526_4.htm gives an interpretation of this affirmation).
The 11th FYP Western Region.
The 11th FYP. Chinese Government’s Official Web Portal.

Is there a pattern in the innovation process in China ?

Yes. A technology is imported from a foreign company ; once the Chinese company has acquired the necessary know-how (through “assimilation and absorption”, as the MLP puts it), it will make local improvements (secondary innovation). This step is followed by the creation of a joint venture between the two companies, with a common design and production.

An example is the improvement of coal-fired power plants, where the innovation pattern can be seen at every change of technology and which is described in more detail below (see “Energy – Coal fired power plants”).

References

The Future of China’s Energy Market. IHEST. 08/05/2013.

Who funds R&D in China ?

The total amount of China R&D expenditure in 2010 was around 706 billion RMB at the time equivalent to €70.6 billion. Over 70% of R&D funds came from the business sector and about one quarter from the government.

However, research institutes and universities took and take the lion’s share (85%) of government funds. See Figure 2 below.

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Public R&D expenditure by sector of performance (Erawatch China Research Funders, Government sector, Overview).

Interestingly, although governmental policies and funds are available to promote R&D activities in enterprises, it is still hard for POEs (privately owned enterprises) to receive government direct appropriations compared with SOEs (state owned enterprises).

Note that the number of POEs was three times the number of SOEs in 2003.

Another – similar example- comes from the renewable energy market : The very large state‐owned companies tend to be the sole beneficiaries of the funds mobilised by the central government (through the China Development Bank) and the international organisations (like the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank), offering long‐term loans with interest rates of 3‐4%. The other companies have access to bank loans at much less favourable conditions : short term loans with interest rates between 6‐8%.

References

The Future of China’s Energy Market. IHEST. 08/05/2013.
Erawatch China Research Funders, Government sector, Overview.subsection=GovernmentAndRegionalAuthorities
Erawatch China Research Policy Focus.

Part 2 : Key domains & concret approaches

Nanotechnology

“An account of which country ?”
The case […] highlights elements of industrial policy carried out by the […] government not only by setting rules and providing infrastructure, but also by strategically selecting technology of the next generation and arranging large- scale public investment. The […] government justified the Initiative by calling for the scientific need for industrial competitiveness, an explicit integration of science and technology policy and industrial policy. Moreover, we find evidence that this program, […], was initiated and drafted by a small handful number of policy makers […]. At the same time, despite its intention to strengthen the industrial competitiveness, the bulk of the […] government fund continues to channel into universities and government labs and little into the private sector. Whether this goal will be achieved without more direct government focus on commercialization remains uncertain.
(Motoyama et al. 2011)

The above is the abstract of a scientific article and only those words have been removed, which clearly indicate the country being talked of. The abstract describes a mechanism often implemented in China to encourage R&D and innovation, but it is an example drawn from the USA on the nanotechnology sector and the founding of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

Nanotechnology therefore deserves a particular mention ; it is a good example for an industrial policy being implemented, not just by China, but interestingly also by the USA ; strong parallels can be drawn between the two countries in a domain, where “research is high and the market far away”, as some authors put it.

According to a report, “China started at the same time and kept growing at the same pace with major developed countries such as United States and Japan”. One can even say that the Americans started heavily encouraging the nanotechnology sector also because they had the impression they were already lagging behind other countries, including China.

Both countries, like many others, believed and “expect that the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology will greatly affect many areas of scientific research and industrial development, and many aspects of everyday life.”

The beginning

In the US, a few scientists and engineers persuaded the US government that nanotechnology was the “next new thing” and prepared the way for the founding of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2000.

Dr Mike Roco (then program director at the National Science Foundation), can be seen as a “key architect” of this initiative, together with Tom Kalil (Deputy Assistant to the President for Technology and Economic Policy, and Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council at the time) and Neal Lane (Assistant to the President for Science and Technology at the time).

Some believe that Dr Chunli Bai, a chemist and nanoscientist, had a similarly important role in China, where he participated in the creation of the “National Steering Committee for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, to oversee national policy and planning in these arenas” in 2000, involving MOST, the State Development and Planning Commission, the Ministry of Education, CAS, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the NSFC (National Science Foundation of China) and, - typically- no member from the industry sector.

The National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST) of China was founded in 2003, with Bai being its founding director. He is now the president of CAS.

Funding

Over the past few years, the NNI has received an annual funding of around USD 1.7 billion from the federal budget. According to the Cientifica report, China overtook the US in funding (adjusted for purchasing power parity) in 2011. Programs funding research include the National Basic Research and Development Program (or 973 Program), the National High-Technology Research and Development Program (or 863 Program), and programs from the National Science Foundation of China.

In China, the research activity is concentrated in universities and CAS affiliated labs (see Figure 3), in the US, the large majority of federal funds are channelled to academic institutions and national government laboratories.

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R&D activity distribution in various institutions – source National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of China (Research Report on Chinese High-Tech Industries).

Innovation

A good measure of innovation is the number of scientific publications in the field, where China has overtaken the US and is regarded to be “one of the world’s leading countries in … research.” (See Figure 4).

JPEG - 105.8 ko
Nanotechnology Publications by Five Top Producing Countries, 1990–2010 (Arora et al. 2013).

Another measure for innovation and a means of assessing, whether investments in R&D are bearing fruits, is the commercialization of nano-related products. Here, both countries fall short of the – very high- expectations made at the beginning of the new millennium. One can say that “nanotechnology is still considered in its infancy” and that it is too early to make any such assessment, whether in the US, in China or elsewhere.

China took the lead concerning safety issues by founding the Laboratory for Bio-Environmental Health Sciences of Nanoscale Materials in 2003, and issuing national standards for nanotechnology in 2005, “laying groundwork for international standards”.

References

• Chunli Bai. Ascent of Nanoscience in China. Science 309 (2005) 61-63.
Yuliang Zhao. China`s Development for the Safety Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials. Lab for Bio-Environmental Health Sciences of Nanoscale Materials. The Chinese Academy of Sciences. OECD Nanosafety Workshop. 07/12/2005.
Research Report on Chinese High-Tech Industries. U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission. 01/01/2009.
• Yasuyuki Motoyama, Richard Appelbaum, Rachel Parker. The National Nanotechnology Initiative : Federal support for science and technology, or hidden industrial policy ? Technology in Society 33 (2011) 109–118.
Tim Harper. Global Funding of Nanotechnologies & its Impact. Cientifica Ltd. 13/07/2011.
Assessing the early impacts of nanotechnology in China. Nanowerk. 05/12/2012.
• Sanjay K. Arora, Alan L. Porter, Jan Youtie, and Philip Shapira. Capturing new developments in an emerging technology : an updated search strategy for identifying nanotechnology research outputs. Scientometrics, 95 (2013) 351-370.
• Cong Cao, Richard P. Appelbaum, Rachel Parker. “Research is high and the market is far away” : Commercialization of nanotechnology in China. Technology in Society 35 (2013) 55–64.
• NNI Budget. United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. http://www.nano.gov/about-nni/what/funding
National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST).
Dr. Mihail C. Roco. Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology. National Science Foundation.
Bai Chunli. Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Integrated Circuit Technology

Background

The semiconductor industry is globalized and “vertically disintegrated” ; it has become possible for IC design companies to source technological services at a point, that they become “fabless” (short for fabrication-less), sending their designs to IC factories. Two –successful- exceptions are Intel and Samsung.

This also means, that on a global scale, there will be a few specialized companies for each type of component, concentrating R&D and technological knowledge.

China’s innovation capacity in the IC design industry is improving, but still lagging behind countries like the US. However, a combination of outsourcing and acquisition of competitors with complementary IP (intellectual property) capabilities, as well as the availability of e.g. open source smartphone software (like Android) has facilitated the entry of new Chinese IC design companies into the wireless communications market.

These companies tend to cater to the lower-end feature phone market and their profit margins are small. This limits the money available to fund and expand their in-house R&D. The IC industry is also a very fast evolving one and IC design companies have to adapt very quickly to new developments, which makes building up an in-house R&D “not a very practical option”. Outsourcing (globally) allows Chinese IC design firms to concentrate on the design aspects they are already good at and increases their chances to enter the more profitable high-end market.

China’s ambitions

The MLP puts the targets set in this sector as follows : “master core technologies for integrated circuits and key components […] in order to upgrade indigenous development capability ; […] strengthen integrated innovation in information technology products and improve design and manufacturing capability so as to ensure […] cost-effectiveness of information technology products, […] enhance the competitiveness of information industry”.

It thus stresses indigenous innovation, investment into R&D and locally owned IP.

Policies and incentives

At the beginning of the new millennium, the State Council issued the “Basket of Measures to Boost the Software and IC Industry”, seen as a fundamental document for the development of this industry. In January 2011, the State Council issued the “Several Policies to Further Encourage Software and Integrated Circuit Industries”, the so-called “Document 4.’

The state offers the incentives seen also in the other domains discussed in this report, like fiscal advantages, funding of research programs and individual talents. One of the main innovation tax policies is the “High and New Technology enterprise (HNTE) program”.

In short, companies can take advantage of the program, if they are designated as “indigenous innovation companies”. Companies are required to own the proprietary IP rights of the core technology used in their products and services in China, or they must give their Chinese subsidiaries a global exclusive license for that IP for at least five years.

Foreign companies might refrain from applying, because they are forced to manage their IP according to Chinese policy, rather than purely commercial and economic considerations.
Also, the application procedure is lengthy, can be costly and requires companies to give very detailed information on their R&D activities, which they might deem too sensitive for communication.

Conclusion

As seen above, domestic IC companies have limited R&D funds, but are also not necessarily interested in pursuing an active R&D from a commercial and economic point of view. The industry is highly globalized and “vertically disintegrated”.
The insistence of the Chinese government on “domestic” innovation and R&D stands thus potentially in contrast with its aim to “ensure […] cost-effectiveness of information technology products, […] enhance the competitiveness of information industry”.

References

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.
Document 4 : A Policy Interpretation. China Intellectual Property Rights Protection Website. 15/07/2011.
Corporate Income Tax incentives for software and integrated circuit industries further clarified. KPMG. 21/05/2012.
Dieter Ernst, Barry Naughton. Global Technology Sourcing in China’s Integrated Circuit Design Industry : A Conceptual Frame-work and Preliminary Findings. East-West Center Working Papers, Economics Series, No. 131. 08/2012.
China’s High and New-Technology Enterprise (HNTE) Program. US-China Business Council. 21/06/2013.

Transport- Aviation

This chapter serves as an example that acquiring the necessary know-how in a high-tech domain like aircraft building takes not only money but also time.

Background

Building large passenger aircrafts is one of the “major special projects” mentioned in the MLP, and the expenditure on R&D on aircraft and spacecraft was 3.33 billion RMB in 2007 alone.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC) is a state-owned company and was founded in 2008 with the approval of the State Council. It is charged with the assembly of China’s first large commercial aircraft and wants to eventually challenge the duopoly of Airbus and Boeing.

The state has invested heavily and AVIC (one of the founding companies of COMAC) acquired two companies in 2011 (Cirrus and Teledyne Continental Motors) to accelerate the appropriation of the necessary technological know-how. In 2013, COMAC and Bombardier started a collaboration, in which Bombardier acts as an advisor on the ARJ21 and collaborates with COMAC on the C919, the two aircraft models COMAC intends to build.

Obstacles

But despite the heavy investment, the acquisitions, collaborations and previous experience of AVIC of building a fighter aircraft, the two planned commercial airplanes are running into problems. Delivery of ARJ21 was originally planned for 2007, but has now been postponed to “mid-2014”, according to COMAC’s chairman. C919 is scheduled for 2018.

COMAC has opted, like Boeing and Airbus, for a framer-supplier model, using a large number of external suppliers. The outsourcing on such a large scale and coordination of all the suppliers seems to be part of the problem, faced also by such an experienced aircraft builder as Boeing on its 787 model.

A second issue is the certification process : The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting a shadow certification process alongside the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s (CAAC) certification process on the ARJ21. Once this process has been completed, the FAA will recognize the CAAC as a certifying authority and thus planes certified by CAAC will likewise be recognized by the FAA and can thus enter the market in, e.g. the US. But as long as the FAA is not satisfied with the ARJ21, it will not start the certification process on the C919, which might thus get further delayed.

References

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.
China Science & Technology Statistics Data Book 2007.
Russ Niles. Cirrus Acquired By Chinese Company. AVweb. 28/02/2011.
China’s AVIC International completes US acquisition deal. China Daily. 21/04/2011.
COMAC and Bombardier Sign Strategic Definitive Agreement on Phase II of Long-Term Collaboration. 17/06/2013.
COMAC’s Steep Learning Curve. AirInsight. 25/09/2013.
Comac aims to deliver first ARJ21 by end-2014. Flightglobal. 26/09/2013.
Bradley Perrett. C919 May Be Largely Limited To Chinese Market. Aviation Week & Space Technology. 16/12/2013.
Siva Govindasamy. China’s COMAC learns plane building isn’t easy. Reuters. 12/02/2014.
The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Ltd. (COMAC).

Energy – Coal fired power plants

Background

Since the 11th FYP, China has privileged the construction of more efficient and less polluting plants, whilst closing down the old ones (Guideline for Building Large Ones and Shutting Down Small Ones).
Since 2008, the Chinese power plants are on average more efficient and have lower CO2 emissions compared to their American counterparts (Figure 5).

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Energy efficiency (left hand side) and carbon intensity (right hand side) of the Chinese and the American coal‐fired power plants (China 2030 : 2012).

Innovation pattern

Coal is a good example for illustrating this pattern found in many S&T domains in China : A technology is imported from a foreign company ; through “assimilation and absorption”, as the MLP puts it, the Chinese company will then acquire the necessary know-how and be able to make local improvements (secondary innovation, or in the words of the MLP “enhancing original innovation”). This step is followed either by licensing or by the creation of a joint venture between the two companies, with a common design and production (Table 1).

TechnologyYearTechnology OriginSupplier country
Sub-critical1980Import and secondary innovationUnited States
1989Cooperation with the foreign companies for the design and construction
Super-critical1992Import (and secondary innovation)Switzerland
2000Japan
2004Cooperation with the foreign companies for the design and construction
Ultra-supercritical2003Import (and secondary innovation)Japan
Germany
2006Cooperation with the foreign companies for the design and construction

Roadmap of clean coal power generation localization in China (Yue 2012).

An example is GreenGen, a project led by a consortium of China’s biggest power companies, the Chinese state and an American company (the largest private sector coal company in the world). The aim is to design and build an IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) coal-fired power plant with CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology. A 250 MW IGCC plant has been in operation since April 2012.

The problems the two companies include legal questions and “there are significant intellectual property issues that will need resolution before a long-term agreement [on technology-sharing, editor’s note] can be developed”, according to the CERC’s (US-China Clean Energy Center) annual report.

CCS in not included in the 12th FYP, as the technique is not yet ready, but China is pursuing an active research in this field and has drawn level with the EU regarding the number of patents filed (Table 2).

CountryPatents (%)
Japan27.7
United States23.5
European Union13.5
China11.1

Table 2 Patents filed on CCS, by country (Li et al. 2013).

References

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.
China 2030 : Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society. Conference Edition. The World Bank, Development Research Center of the State Council, the People’s Republic of China. 24/02/2012.
• Li Yue. Dynamics of clean coal-fired power generation development in China. Energy Policy 51 (2012) 138–142.
• Jeff Tollefson, Richard Van Noorden. Slow progress to cleaner coal. China moves forward with demonstration power plant as United Kingdom revives carbon-capture programme. Nature 484 (2012) 151–152.
• Bingyun Li, Yuhua Duan, David Luebke, Bryan Morreale. Advances in CO2 capture technology : A patent review. Applied Energy 102 (2013) 1439–1447.
The Future of China’s Energy Market. IHEST. 08/05/2013.
U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center Annual Report 2012-2013. U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). 20/09/2013.

Energy – Coal conversion

At the beginning of the new millennium, the central government encouraged the acquisition and development of conversion techniques through the Key Advanced Technology Industry Development Priority Guide, by exempting the relevant technologies from tariffs and import value-added taxes (VATs) and initiating various research projects through the 863 Program.

This continued through the period of the 11th FYP (2006-10) and was also laid down in the MLP. The government even drafted – but never released – a MLP on the Coal Conversion Industry in 2006.

Coal was cheap and gas and other reserves were – and remain - relatively scarce in China.

For the 12th FYP, the government, the central government has lowered its ambitions, putting the emphasis on R&D :

Coal has become more expensive and the price difference between coal and crude oil or natural gas has become too small to make coal conversion profitable.

A second issue is the environmental impact of coal conversion : using current technologies, the conversion process produces very large quantities of Green house gases (GHG) : global emissions of diesel obtained through carbon-to-liquid (CTL) procedures represent 230% that of conventional diesel. The various conversion techniques also use enormous amounts of water, which poses a particular problem for China, as its coal reserves tend to lie in regions that are water stressed.

The local governments of coal producing provinces remained eager to develop large coal conversion projects, seeing them as a way to develop the local economy.

However, for the past couple of years, the central government seems to have returned to its original policy of encouraging the exploitation, approving, for example, a number of synthetic natural gas (SNG) production projects, mainly in Xinjiang and Mongolia, both water-stressed regions (Table 3).

CompanyLocation (Region/Locality)Planned capacity (billion m3 yr−1)
DatangInner Mongolia/Chifeng4.0
DatangLiaoning/Fuxin4.0
HuinengInner Mongolia/Ordos1.6
China Kingho GroupXinjiang/Ili5.5
CPI CorporationXinjiang/Ili6.0
Xinwen Mining GroupXinjiang/Ili4.0
GuodianInner Mongolia/Hinggan League4.0
CNOOCShanxi/Datong4.0
Xinmeng EnergyInner Mongolia/Ordos4.0

National government-approved SNG projects (Yang & Jackson 2013).

The incentive for this reversal might have come from the high pollution levels in cities like Beijing ; to ease this situation, the government plans to replace all its coal fired power plants to gas ones.

The coal conversion projects stand in contrast with China’s aim to reduce its reliance on coal, to reduce water usage in the industry and cut down its GHG emissions, stated in the 12th FYP.

References

The National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020) – An Outline. The State Council, People’s Republic of China. 31/01/2006.
Pierre MARION. La liquéfaction du charbon : où en est-on aujourd’hui ? IFP, Panorama 2008. 15/02/2008.
• Chi-Jen Yang, Robert B. Jackson. China’s synthetic natural gas revolution. Nature Climate Change 3 (2013) 852-854.
The Future of China’s Energy Market. IHEST. 08/05/2013.
Michael Lelyveld. China’s Synthetic Natural Gas Plans Trigger Climate Concerns. Radio Free Asia. 21/10/2013.
The China Greentech Report 2013. 29/05/2013.

Nuclear Energy

Background

As in other domains, China started with importing the technology (for civilian nuclear programs), buying “turnkey” projects and signing contracts with technology transfers before acquiring the necessary know-how to build nuclear power plants on its own (from the mid-1990s on).

The Chinese nuclear industry is present on the international market as a single player (exports to Pakistan and Rumania) or together with large western groups (like the partnership between CGNPC (China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group) and EDF (Electricité de France) for the construction of nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom).

Four aspects deserve to be highlighted in particular :

1. Politics and diplomatic relationships play an important role in this sector (the adoption of a Russian VVER design shortly after the Chernobyl accident is an example), which is one of the reasons China has a number of different reactor technologies in use (from, e.g., Canada, France, Russia and the US).

2. Planning, approval and licensing nuclear reactors is always complex, but particularly so in China, where there are many government organizations sometimes with overlapping or not clearly defined and delimited responsibilities (a problem also found in the oil sector).

3. A problem not unique to China, but perhaps more exacerbated there, is the influence politicians have in the various institutions. The heads of the large companies are often appointed by the Premier of the State Council (for example the president and vice‐president of CNNC (China National Nuclear Corporation)) and are frequently high‐ranking officials of the Communist Party. This may lead to the situation where the head of the regulatory body has the same or an inferior rank than the head of the company he is supposed to regulate.

4. It is perhaps easy to assume that as China is a single‐party state, policy decisions can be taken and implemented easily at a national level. But the fragmentation of the decision centres (at national and local levels) and diverging opinions between them have lead to somewhat contradictory policies. It has also contributed to the diversity of reactor designs chosen for construction (nine in 2013). This means that there is little standardization in this field, making the construction of power plants more expensive. It makes it also more difficult to draw up and implement safety standards and rules and achieve an economy of scales for innovations.

Innovation

China tends to have a more open approach regarding innovation and is more willing to test new technologies compared to Western countries. It is also currently still lacking the necessary technological know‐how in clean energy technology. It has thus opted to import the technology by, for example, offering foreign firms the possibility to run full‐scale tests in China using technologies they have developed.
This passage from R&D to the demonstration of the technical and economic feasibility is a crucial step in the process of innovation. In Western countries the industry sector tends to be reticent to finance such tests, as the first installations are generally very expensive and not yet very reliable. “The technology was developed here, tested in China and is now finding a market here” as the CEO of a large American company sums it up.

Both parties gain from this : the foreign company gets a chance to test a new technology ; China receives a direct access to the most cutting‐edge‐technology and innovation. 
For example, the Chinese company State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation is building the first nuclear reactors using Westinghouse’s AP1000 technology. The experience gained will help Westinghouse to obtain construction permits for AP1000 reactors in the United States. Westinghouse and State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation have actually created a joint‐venture to build more powerful reactors derived from AP1000. The Chinese company owns part of the intellectual property rights on these new reactors.

As mentioned above, China has a rather large diversity of reactor designs (nine in 2013), which potentially reduces the efficiency of domestic R&D and innovation efforts.

References

The Future of China’s Energy Market. IHEST. 08/05/2013.

The Pharma Industry

Background

The Chinese pharmaceutical industry appeared at the beginning of the 1950s, following a government decision to become self-sufficient regarding all aspects involving health care. By 1979, China was able to reproduce almost all Western medicines.

Having acquired the necessary know how, the Chinese pharmaceutical companies started an active R&D for the discovery of new drugs, although numerous companies still limit their activities to producing generics.

The big foreign pharmaceutical companies started arriving in China in the 1980s and have been cooperating with Chinese research centres since the 1990s.

China’s aims

Biomedicine is one of the National Major High-Tech Projects and included in the 11th as well as the 12th FYP on S&T.

The government places great importance on innovation in the pharmaceutical sector and sets ambitious goals : to develop 30 new drugs and transform about 200 existing drugs. New drugs will probably be biopharmaceuticals : medicines produced using biotechnologies.

Funding

Numbers vary according to sources, but government funding of around RMB 13 billion has been allocated for R&D on new drugs for the period 2011-2015, with an additional RMB 19.3 billion from enterprises. The 863 dedicated up to 27% of its total funds to the biotechnologies and financed three-quarters of the biopharmaceuticals launched between 1986 and 2000.

An example on a local scale is the Zhang Jiang Fund for Advancing the Industrialization of Bio-Pharmaceuticals ; Shanghai municipality injected RMB 1 bio into this fund.

Policies

A number of pharmaceutical companies using biotechnologies are implanted in science parks, of which there are about 80 to date. The aim of the parks is to persuade big domestic and foreign companies to set up their R&D centres there as well as to facilitate the creation of innovative biotech companies (like spin-offs).

The parks offer cheap premises and important fiscal advantages : Corporate income tax (CIT), for example, is at 15% (instead of 25%). The tax can be completely waived for the first two years and be halved the three following years. Revenues created through technology transfers and consultative services are tax-exempt if below RMB 5 million and benefit from a 50% reduction if above this sum.

The Chinese state and local authorities also greatly encourage Chinese, who have completed part of their studies abroad to return to China (returnees are called hǎiguī), hoping that they will accelerate the economic development of the country by bringing with them a different approach and savoir faire, driving innovation. The plan seems to be working : Almost half of the new biopharmaceutical start-ups are created by hǎiguī, despite their much smaller number compared to non-hǎiguī potential entrepreneurs.

Innovation

Numerous companies in the pharmaceutical sector do not pursue active research but concentrate on producing generics.

However, some Chinese companies are also innovative. By December 2012, 62 new drugs were licensed, 2/3 of which own indigenous intellectual properties. 23 of the new drugs were launched on the market.
Note that between 2003 and 2010, Chinese pharmaceutical companies have launched on average clinical trials for 25 new drugs per year and brought 4 new drugs per year on the market.

A good measure for innovation are the scientific publications on biopharmaceutical research and here China occupied the second place in terms of numbers in 2010, even though the articles have a lesser notoriety compared to US and UK articles.

References

China’s major high-tech projects planned for 2006-2010. Chinese Government’s Official Web Portal. 06/03/2006.
China’s 12th Five-Year Plan : Healthcare sector. KPMG. 01/06/2011.
Le 12ème plan quinquennal pour la science et la technologie. La France en Chine – Ambassade de France. 20/12/2012.
Bioindustry Development Plan Released by China —By 2020, bioindustry will be developed into a pillar of the economy. China Science and Technology Newsletter (2013 n° 3).
China Science and Technology Newsletter (in Chinese). 10/04/2013.
Biotechnology in China - Q&A. IHEST. 16/04/2013.
The Pharmaceutical Industry and China – Q&A. IHEST. 16/04/2013.
The 11th FYP. Chinese Government’s Official Web Portal.

GM plants

GM plants have been grown in China since 1996, but occupy less than 3% of the arable land. Almost all of these 3% is insect-resistant GM cotton.

From 2003-2008, China occupied the second place, together with India, regarding the number of publications on GM plants in international scientific journals, a good indication of innovative research in this field. In 2008, China launched a US$ 3.5 bio program for R&D on GM plants.

China has an active plant Biotech industry. An important player and good example for a successful spin-off, is Biocentury Transgene, which was founded in 1998 by the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development and the researchers, who had created a local strain of GM cotton. The government of Shenzhen and a local investor were the principal financiers. The company is currently investing more than 10% of its budget in R&D and is collaborating with research institutes abroad (Bangladesh, India, Israel, Pakistan, Vietnam).

Biocentury is the “National Development Base of the 863 Program”.

A major problem faced by the biotech seed industry is the protection of intellectual property rights, or IPR. The current law does not seem to offer an effective protection of new plant varieties, partly because the definition of “plant variety” is not clear or because it allows circumventing the patented process easily.

In 2004, the varieties with CAAS’s (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences’) gene covered 2.25 million hectares in 2004,but the Bt-cotton varieties sold by CAAS and Biocentury Co. amounted to only a little more than 8 per cent of total Bt-cotton area in the same year ; 9 out of 10 seeds were thus copies. Monsantos had similar problems.

This clearly puts a break on companies’ motivation to be involved in R&D activities.

References

Katherine Linton, Mihir Torsekar. Innovation in Biotechnology Seeds : Public and Private Initiatives in India and China. Journal of International Commerce and Economics. 25/03/2010.
Li Jinguang. A view on Plant variety under china’s Plant IP Protection system. China Intellectual Property Magazine. 15/06/2011.
Bioindustry Development Plan Released by China – By 2020, bioindustry will be developed into a pillar of the economy. China Science and Technology Newsletter (2013 n° 3).
Biotechnology in China - Q&A. IHEST. 16/04/2013.
Jikun Huang, Ruifa Hu, Scott Rozelle, Carl Pray. Development, Policy and Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops in China : A Comprehensive Review of China’s Agricultural Biotechnology Sector. 01/04/2010.

References

The URLs were verified in April 2014. If a link should not work, it is generally possible to retrieve the document by using its title and a search engine. The references are listed in function of their online publication, starting with the oldest reference.
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China’s 12th Five-Year Plan : Healthcare sector. KPMG. 01/06/2011. http://www.kpmg.com/CN/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/China-12th-Five-Year-Plan-Healthcare-201105-3.pdf
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vendredi 4 avril 2014, par HUCHERY Mélissa