At a glance: Three ministries and government agencies have issued a plan aimed at encouraging collaboration between universities and industry, especially highly specialized SMEs, on core technology research. Key measures include:
- encouraging SMEs to participate in Ministry of Education (MOE)-run engineering research centers and engaging professors and doctoral students as technical mentors and researchers
- subsidizing “little giant” companies to foster university-industry innovation
- matching universities and companies and strengthening financial support for collaborative innovation projects
- evaluating universities and researchers on the basis of their technical consulting services and cooperation projects undertaken with companies.
Engineering research centers
The Ministry of Education has established more than 300
engineering research centers in universities to align their research with national development targets. These centers receive state funds
to become bridges between academia and industry. Their tasks include studying and proposing industrial technical standards, promoting the application of advanced technologies, and providing technical information and consulting services for industry.
MERICS comment: Chinese universities and companies commonly cooperate. Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University, for instance, is working with the CSSC on maritime technologies. Instead of waiting for such collaborations to emerge organically, China’s government is keen to speed things along and guide cooperation projects towards strategic technologies. Authorities regard innovation as a silver bullet to sustain economic growth and are therefore seeking to overcome a perceived lack of collaboration between the academic and corporate worlds.
The plan incentivizes both universities – through evaluation criteria – and specialized SMEs – through subsidies – to cooperate on innovation. Zhengzhou University is proactively spending CNY 10 million to match 100 professors with 100 companies in sectors including new materials and the life sciences. Such state-coordinated collaboration could fast-track China’s indigenous innovation efforts. Companies could increase their competitiveness by gaining valuable insights from state-funded universities.
While foreign companies with leading technological capabilities will always be sought-after partners for Chinese research institutes, the main target group of this policy is Chinese SMEs, not foreign companies. If successful, the policy will boost Chinese innovation capabilities and increase competition for foreign companies in the years ahead.
Article: Notice on “Thousand Schools and Ten Thousand Enterprises” Collaborative Innovation Partnership (组织开展“千校万企”协同创新伙伴行动的通知) (Link)
Issuing bodies: MIIT, MOE, CNIPA
Date: July 11, 2022