Chinese authorities announced Monday that input into scientific research and development has (R&D) reached that of developed countries, while experts said that the country still lags behind developed countries in the number of research talents and the investment in basic research.
Cao Jianlin, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said Monday in a high-tech fair in Changchun, Jilin Province, that China's R&D investment has caught up with developed countries. The country has established a goal of increasing its R&D funds to 2.2 percent of its GDP by 2015, and further raising the funds to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2020, China News Service reported. By that time, China will "basically" become an innovative country, he claimed.
China's R&D funds accounted for 1.76 percent of its GDP in 2010, and with 861 billion yuan ($137.33 billion) investment in R&D in 2011, China is the second largest R&D investor after the US, which spent $405.3 billion in R&D, according to a report released by the Battelle-R&D Magazine.
However, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times that the output of a country's R&D funds should also be measured by the number of research talents it has cultivated, in addition to the number of patents.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that China is still way behind developed countries in terms of the number of research talents. There were 14,400 high quality research talents in China in 2005, while Germany had 65,000 research talents.
The academician also pointed out that the government should pay more attention to basic research, which is crucial to understanding of fundamental scientific principles but is less profitable in the short term.
Shing-Tung Yau, a prominent mathematician with Harvard University, also suggested that China increase its input into basic science education.
"The money spent to cultivate 1,000 professors almost equals that spent by the presidents of all Chinese colleges and universities on entertaining guests," he was quoted as saying by Beijing Youth Daily.
Only 5.4 percent of China's R&D funds were allocated to basic research in 2005, whereas 18.7 percent of the R&D funds of the US were distributed to the area in 2004.
Currently, the government's R&D funds are allocated to institutions and enterprises before the research take place, which is very likely to result in the squandering of the funds, as well as discouraging researchers, the academician said.
For those low-risk programs, the R&D funds could be allocated to research institutions and enterprises after the programs are completed successfully, he said, noting that this schedule will encourage the enterprises and institutions to carry out more serious research programs.
A CEO of a private digital technology company complained to the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the government prefers to fund scientific research institutes and State-owned enterprises rather than private enterprises, which also explains the disproportionate output of the R&D funds.