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China's Policies on Innovation Management and Protection

Dr. SHANG Yong

Vice Minister of Science and Technology, China

The key to innovation lies in human resources.  The Chinese government, besides improving its laws and regulations, has focused its attention on deepening the S&T system reform as well as introducing policies to promote innovation and technology transfer, so as to motivate entrepreneurship and enthusiasm of all talents for innovation.

Firstly, a market-oriented R&D system has been set up.  Over the past two decades, China has reformed its S&T system, with the aim of integrating S&T development with the economy growth so as to make full play the leading role of market in innovation and accelerate commercialization of technology.  Since 1998, 376 application-oriented research institutes affiliated to the central government and over 800 to the local government have been restructured and transformed into various types of enterprises or have been incorporated as R&D sector of an enterprise.  Research institutes for basic research and public good are for the most part supported by the government, but enjoy full initiatives and flexibility in terms of operation and management.  With the industry-university-research institute collaboration being one focus in China’s innovation strategy, the government not only encourages research institutes, universities and enterprises to jointly take on national R&D projects and set up laboratories, but also stimulates enterprises to entrust universities and research institutes with R&D tasks.

Secondly, we have introduced policies that encourage all kinds of innovation and creation throughout the whole society.  The central government as well as local ones have set up S&T awards of all levels to commend individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to S&T advancement, which, together with the stimulation from non-governmental organizations, has played an important role in supporting and guiding innovation in China.  Meanwhile, the Chinese government has made major adjustment to its IPR management, granting research findings and the subsequent IPR to R&D project contractors.  The policy is similar to the 1980 Bye-Dole Act of the U.S., which will effectively activate the enthusiasm of project contractors and researchers and accelerate the commercialization of research achievements.  In order to bring into full play the innovation potentials of universities, the research fellows in universities are allowed to spare one day each week for technology commercialization while university students receive funding for their innovation and start-ups.  Our government has also issued polices that a sponsor could contribute his/her share capital in the form of technology or IPR, and shares could be awarded to inventors.  In high-tech enterprises, options are available for innovators and managers as incentives.

All these policies and measures have greatly boosted the innovation dynamism of the entire society.  In terms of patent application, it took China 15 years to reach 1 million, 4 years to grow from 1 million to 2 million, but only 2 years to 3 million, indicating the effectiveness of these policy tools in stimulating innovation.  This is the very period that China has made great progress in IPR protection.

Thirdly, great efforts have been devoted to developing technology markets.  In addition to a dozen of regional permanent pillar markets for technological trading established in some cities, China has also set up a number of “on-line technology markets”, which have greatly upgraded the efficiency of technology transaction through information and network techniques.  In 2006, the volume of technology contract in China increased from US$39,000 in 1985 to US$23.7 billion, with a large amount of advanced R&D achievement and technology transfer from universities and research institutes to enterprises.

Fourthly, our government offers policy support to the establishment of high-tech industrial development zones or science parks.  At the moment, there are 54 national high-tech industrial development zones and 534 specialized incubators, with ever improving platforms for technological development, achievement commercialization and public services.  In 2006, US$130 million from the central government and US$343 million from local governments was injected into the Innovation Fund to sponsor over 10,000 Technology-Based SMEs, playing a key role in high-tech SMEs innovation.

Fifthly, the government has developed favourable financial policies to support the innovation of enterprises.  This has already been covered in the previous section, and I will give no details here.