China amazed the whole world with its economic miracle. But this was largely due to the involvement of foreign companies. And now the country has become a leader in scientific publications, patents and high technologies. How did China manage to make such a fantastic breakthrough in just ten years?
Alexey Maslov: I wouldn’t call it a breakthrough. China has been deliberately developing its potential in science and education for decades. But how he did it is very interesting and instructive. After all, these spheres largely copied the Soviet system. So there have been major changes. What purpose? If we distinguish the main trend, science and education should aim at the end result. This trend was particularly intensified when it became clear that the United States and its allies were cutting the country off from high technology, in an effort to secure complete dominance.
In other words, in Chinese institutions, a scientist cannot satisfy his own curiosity at the expense of the public?
Alexey Maslov: Hardly. China has carried out a very painful restructuring of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and several specialized academies. Now, institutions are required not only to conduct world-class research, but also to make a profit or work for future innovations. For example, a number of academic institutions directly serve the space industry, they are embedded in the creation of new technologies. This allows scientists to earn a lot of money.
I repeat, the result is the main criterion for evaluating scientific work. By the way, China did not blindly copy the system of evaluating the work of scientists adopted in leading countries, where the main indicator is the number of publications and citations. The country uses its own approach. It also takes into account global trends, but overrides its own, the most important indicators for Chinese specificities.
Which turned out to be very effective. Without fetishizing scientometrics, the Chinese have nevertheless taken the lead in this indicator.
Alexey Maslov: Absolutely. This means that the mechanism of science is set up correctly. And what is more significant is that the face of Chinese science has changed. Previously, the Chinese Academy of Sciences or the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences mainly employed older scientists, but now the vast majority are relatively young for science, very active people focused on results.
But China has radically changed not only the field of science, but also that of education. The bet was made on the creation of a close link between the university and the industry or the employer. Larger companies submit requests to universities regarding the type of personnel they need. The demand for graduates is one of the main results of the work of the university. Thus, a large number of first-class specialists and scientists were formed, who came to scientific and high-tech enterprises. And Chinese universities have topped global rankings.
One of the main points of Gennady Krasnikov’s program, when he was still fighting for the presidency of the Russian Academy of Sciences, looked like this: the academy must fit into the decision-making system of the Russian Academy. ‘State. In Soviet times it was like that, not a single important decision was made without the academy, but for 30 years academicians heard about it from the media. What is the situation in China? I read that Xi Jinping has taken the leadership of technological progress.
Alexey Maslov: I haven’t seen such statements in the Chinese media. It is said that the Communist Party will control the scientific sector in order to provide the country with technological independence. A central science and technology committee is being set up to strengthen party oversight of the sector. But in general, science is constantly involved in solving the most important problems of the country’s development. Here, China uses the experience of the USSR. Many institutions have become serious think tanks that assess political and economic risks.
A huge sum of money has been invested in the Chinese breakthrough, R&D spending in 2020 reached $525 billion and it is expected to reach $820 billion by 2025. How such gigantic sums are formed ?
Alexey Maslov: It should be emphasized from the outset that most research and development is not funded by the state, but by private and public companies. They represent about 76% of all investments in this sector. For comparison, we have about 30%. But 525 billion is direct funding from the budget and large companies. This sum does not take into account the colossal funds of the regions, which allocate money to local universities, which, as I said, are obliged to participate in the technological race. In addition, the rating of local authorities depends on their success.
China has carried out a very painful restructuring of the science academies. Institutions are required not only to conduct world-class research, but also to generate profits or work for future innovations.
Thus, science, education and industry are ‘sharpened’ for the end result, innovation. But this is a risky area where the probability of losing money is very high. To attract business here, the United States created the National Innovation System, recognized as a greater achievement than even flying to the moon. How are companies attracted to China?
Alexey Maslov: There is a whole arsenal of different means of stimulation. Let’s say that if a large company has created scientific laboratories in itself or maintains them in other institutes and universities, then it is exempt from taxes on the amount of this funding. If a new small business is created, which in its work is based on science, then it is completely exempt from income tax, VAT on the implementation of discoveries and inventions. Personal income taxes may also be reduced. In short, the scientists of such a company can earn a lot of money.
Further away. Special economic zones have been created where anyone can register a startup and receive about 10 million rubles for development. with our money. Although, according to statistics, about seven out of 10 startups fail, the other three fail multiple times. It is important that the Antimonopoly Committee protects startups from takeover by big companies so that “small” gradually becomes big companies. But in China, about 200 startups have already reached a capitalization of 1 billion dollars.
China has always known how to surprise: the famous “terracotta army” – 8100 statues buried in 210-209 BC. Photo: Getty Images
One of the “portfolios” of R&D is risky investment in promising technologies. It is “long” money, it can give a return in 5-7 years, and often in 10-15 years. Of course, a venture capitalist takes a serious risk, but if he succeeds, he can “win” huge sums. And, therefore, innovators must learn how to properly formulate their ideas in commercial projects.
All these measures to reform and support science and education, boost R&D have enabled China to become a technology leader.
In research and development funding, we are an order of magnitude behind, we are in different leagues, but still, what can we learn from China’s experience?
< p class="">Alexey Maslov: The very first thing is state respect for science. Unfortunately, for many years she was not spoiled with special attention, she was not in the leading roles. Sanctions force us to reconsider mentalities, science comes out of the shadows to solve the major development problems. One of the main, and perhaps the most important indicator of the work of institutions at this stage should be the actual result - the introduction of developments. Moreover, a scientist who participates in such work should receive very substantial sums. Being a rich scientist is not shameful, but fair.
We don’t need to create a new Skolkovo. In order to stimulate existing institutions to engage in promising developments, it is necessary to exempt them from taxes for 5 to 10 years, to retrain project leaders and to allow researchers to work in peace. They will become the center of gravity, new startups and business partners will come here.
It is necessary to study the system of incentives for Chinese companies, to invest in research and development and to take the best that can adapt to our realities. And, of course, it is necessary to thoroughly develop the rules of interaction between business and science, where all the nuances of supporting innovation should be written. Otherwise, barriers and misunderstandings will constantly arise between participants. All of this should have been done yesterday. Being able to see shortcomings in time and quickly find a solution is another lesson from the Chinese.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, in 2019, China led the world in terms of the number of patent applications and licenses granted, ahead of the United States. And since then, the gap has continued to widen. An analysis of the high-tech situation by Australian scientists showed that China ranked first in 37 out of 44 areas, from the creation of nanomaterials and robotics to advanced radio frequency communications, defense and space technologies. . The United States comes in second, leading in eight areas, including quantum computing and vaccine development. The other countries lag far behind. Over the past 20 years, China’s spending on research and development has increased 16 times, reaching $525.7 billion and 2.23% of GDP.
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