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Steadily Entering the Ranks of Innovative Countries

Submit Time:03-04-2018 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:Hu Zhijian Xuan Zhaohui | Source:Guangming Daily (March 12, 2018)

Abstract:

According to the report on the work of the government, over the past five years, innovation-driven development has yielded fruitful outcomes. China's investment in research and development (R&D) has grown at an average annual rate of 11%, ranking second in the world in scale. The contribution of technological advances to economic growth has risen from 52.2% to 57.5%. In manned spaceflight, deep-water exploration, quantum communications, large aircraft development, and more, China has seen a stream of major outcomes of innovation. In high-speed rail, e-commerce, mobile payments, and the sharing economy, China is leading the world. 

The National Innovation Index Report 2016-2017 issued by the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development indicates that with continuous investment of innovation resources and constant deepening of the reform of science and technology system and mechanism, China has further improved its innovation efficiency and obtained remarkable results of innovation-driven development in recent years, especially since the 18th CPC National Congress. 

Currently, science and technology innovation (S&T innovation) has become an important strategy for countries in the world to adjust economic structure and foster new drivers of growth. Though the world economic growth still remains low, the global investment in R&D and outcomes of S&T innovation maintain a steady growth, and R&D activities have basically returned to pre-financial crisis growth level in developed countries. Emerging economies, led by China, are catching up with advanced technologies in the world, and the trend of innovation globalization is taking shape gradually.  

Over the years, China has continued to increase its investment in innovation resources. Its innovation capability development has gone far beyond the stage of its economic development, well ahead of other developing countries in the world, especially reflected in its fast improvement of knowledge output efficiency and quality and steady increase of enterprise innovation capability. In the context of global competition, China moved up to the 17th place in 2017 in terms of national innovation index, with its index score continuing to rise, and the gap with advanced countries being narrowed.  

Main data indexes show that China is gradually enhancing its S&T innovation capability  

China's S&T innovation capability has significantly improved since the issuance and implementation of the Outline of National Medium- and Long-term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020), especially since the 18th CPC National Congress. The investment in innovation resources has been increased constantly. The total spending in R&D has ranked the second in the world. The total number of R&D personnel has ranked first in the world for long. The capability of knowledge creation has been increased steadily. China has ranked No. 2 in the world in terms of the number of SCI-indexed papers, maintained No. 1 in the world in terms of the number of domestic invention patent applications, and surpassed Japan in terms of the number of domestic invention patent grants, ranking first in the world. Science and technology have made increasingly significant contributions to economic growth. Knowledge-intensive industry maintains a sound momentum of development. Industrial structure continues to be optimized.  

Abundant innovation resources serve as important guarantee for smooth development of innovation activities. The reserve of R&D spending and R&D personnel, as core elements of innovation resources, directly influences how actively a country conducts its innovation activities. In recent years, China has maintained relatively high in terms of R&D spending and R&D personnel and obtained remarkable results. The top three countries of R&D spending are the US, China and Japan respectively.  

China takes a lead in the globe in the growth of R&D spending. Since the 21st century, R&D spending has showed a trend of growth overall in various countries. Calculated at constant prices, China's annual average growth of R&D spending was 15.9% between 2000 and 2015, ranking first in the world, far ahead of other countries. In the past two years, China has still seen a rapid rise in its R&D spending. The total number of R&D personnel has long been the highest in the world. China's R&D personnel have totaled nearly 4 million, ranking first for consecutive years since 2007.  

Knowledge output capability improves significantly. Knowledge output capability is an important manifestation of innovation activity level and innovation capacity. It indicates the original innovation capacity, innovation vitality and technical innovation level of a country in a collective manner. SCI-indexed papers and invention patent applications and grants are important indexes to reflect the capability of knowledge output. The number of China's SCI-indexed papers, invention patent applications and grants has increased steadily and the capability of knowledge output has greatly improved. For the number of SCI-indexed papers, the top three countries in the world are the US, China and the UK in turn. Since 2000, countries in the world have seen different degrees of growth in the number of SCI-indexed papers. In emerging countries such as China, South Korea, Brazil and India, the growth of SCI-indexed papers is significantly faster than that of developed countries. China's SCI-indexed papers have maintained the rise in number and seen great increase in quality since the issuance of the Outline of National Medium- and Long-term Program for Science and Technology Development (2006-2020).  

Domestic invention patent applications and grants have ranked among the highest in the world. The number of domestic patent applications and grants is mainly concentrated in China, Japan, the US and South Korea, accounting for about 90% of the total in the world. China contributed 90.0% and 61.8% to the rise of domestic invention patent applications and grants in the world between 2000 and 2015 respectively.  

S&T innovation plays an increasingly significant role in economic growth 

Since the reform and opening-up, China has experienced a fast development and steady growth in its economy, and obtained huge achievements. Now China's economic aggregate has moved up the second place in the world. Stable economic development has ensured continuous investment in R&D resources. S&T innovation has played an increasingly strong role in supporting and guiding economic and social development, injecting a steady stream of vitality to economic development.  

The contribution rate of S&T progress is rising steadily. As China's economic development enters the "new normal," innovation has become the primary driving force for development. The 5th Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee took innovative development as the first of the five development concepts and highlighted the guiding role of S&T innovation in all-around innovation. The contribution rate of S&T progress is an index to reflect the contribution of S&T progress to economic growth. It can be used to effectively balance the effect of economic growth mode shift and economic development quality.  

R&D spending intensity continues to increase. R&D spending intensity (ratio of R&D spending to GDP) is an important index to reflect S&T investment, and an important sign of economic structure adjustment and S&T coordinated development. Continuous and stable R&D investment is the basic guarantee of innovation activities. All major developed countries take the increase of R&D spending intensity as an important measure to carry out innovation-driven development. The fast rise in China's R&D spending intensity marks that China's investment structure is experiencing a profound change, and S&T innovation is becoming the key driver of economic development.  

Industrial structure continues to be optimized. In the era of knowledge-based economy, the importance of talents, knowledge, S&T, education and so on in economic and social development is rising increasingly. Knowledge-intensive industry featuring the aggregation of high-tech equipment and highly educated talents reflects internal transformation and upgrading of industrial structure. Over the years, sustainable and steady development of knowledge-intensive industry has provided powerful support for transformation and upgrading of industrial structure in China.  

There is still a huge potential for the increase of innovation capability  

Overall, there is still a huge potential for China to enhance its innovation capability. As long as China continues to maintain a relatively fast growth in innovation resources of the whole society, it will gradually achieve the shift from low cost factor-driven development to innovation-driven development, change the place in regard of S&T innovation, from following others to keeping pace and even leading the pack in more and more areas, and finally become a major S&T power.  

China's innovation capability improvement comes from its enhancement of innovation efficiency. Presently, the advantage of China in innovation is the huge scale of innovation. The potential for development in the future mainly lies in the improvement of innovation efficiency and quality. Affected by the population size and development stage of China, relative indexes involving per capita resource input or output are required to be improved, such as the efficiency of knowledge output including S&T papers, staff productivity reflected by labor productivity and energy output efficiency reflected by economic output of energy consumption per unit. With the increase of education and informatization level, China will experience a shift from the labor force advantage of a country with a large population to high-quality S&T talents advantage of a big innovation power. The benefits of informatization and S&T human resources will bring about the increase of innovation efficiency, thus promoting further enhancement of China's innovation capability.  

China's innovation capability improvement comes from its continuous investment in resources. Qualitative change comes from the accumulation of quantitative changes. China has placed S&T innovation at the heart of its development. In recent years, China's R&D spending has maintained a relatively fast growth rate. In 2013, China surpassed Japan as the second largest country in R&D spending. The gap between China and the US in R&D spending was rapidly narrowed with the increase from less than 10% of the US's total R&D spending in 2005 to about 57% in 2015.  

China's innovation capability improvement comes from its advantage of innovation scale. Viewed from the history of innovation-driven development in the globe, national innovation scale has partly indicated how strong the driving force for innovation-driven development is and how stable the trend is, which is still very important for China as a big country. China surpassed Japan in GDP in 2010 and became the second largest economy in the world. In 2015, China's GDP accounted for 15.5% of the total in the world. Massive economic aggregate has not only brought huge demands and great financial support for innovation activities, but also provided huge market space for commercial application of innovation outcomes.  

China's innovation capability improvement comes from the innovation vitality from comprehensively deepening reform. The Chinese government has advanced system reform systematically, taken major measures and made breakthroughs over the years. The CPC Central Committee has highly promoted the simplification of administrative procedures and delegation of powers, released the new Law on Promoting the Transformation of Scientific and Technological Achievements, formulated Several Opinions on Implementing the Distribution Policy Oriented to the Increase of Knowledge Value, strengthened the performance-related pay distribution incentives, put into place the transformation of scientific and technological achievements and other measures, and stimulated the enthusiasm of scientific researchers for the transfer and transformation of achievements. A series of reform measures have been introduced in the aspects of science and technology financing reform, scientific research fund management, pilot policies promotion for independent innovation demonstration zones, and basic research facilities open to society, highly promoting the implementation of innovation-driven development strategy. Governmental departments have increased financing support for small- and micro-sized enterprises, and carried out tax exemption and weighted pre-tax deduction of R&D expenses for high-tech enterprises and other policies for the support of innovation. The whole society sets off a wave of "mass entrepreneurship and innovation," which is favorable to the release of innovation vitality in China.  

China must focus on S&T innovation, conform to and lead the trend of a new round of economic globalization and industrial reform, work hard for more robust drivers of modernized economic growth through reform, continue to strengthen the innovation capacity and competitiveness of economy, accelerate the supply-side structural reform by S&T innovation, use new technologies and "Internet Plus" to transform and improve traditional industrial development while actively developing strategic emerging industries including artificial intelligence and big data, speed up the formation of a batch of new modes and types of business for real economic development with networked, digitized, green and intelligent manufacturing as the starting point, and actively build a modern economic system. With artificial intelligence as an example, as the big data develops fast, artificial intelligence is causing a new round of industrial reform in the world. The new generation of artificial intelligence will reconstruct all links of economic activities, create new demands for intellectualization, bring about wholly new industrial forms and business modes, change human production and life styles deeply, and realize the soaring social productivity as a whole.  

In short, since China's innovation activities are still in the period of rapid development, China has to maintain sustainable growth of R&D spending, give play to advantages and potential of domestic market, pay more attention to the diffusion and application of achievements, deepen the implementation of S&T innovation system and mechanism reform measures, and constantly improve innovation performance and productivity of the whole society, so as to further promote the construction of an innovative country deeply.  

(Author's Affiliation: Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development)


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