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February 09, 2011

China's innovation goals for 2020

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has announced Innovation 2020 goals

Special emphasis is on four key areas, namely space science, information technology, energy and health.

Innovation 2020 will initiate pilot projects in 7 key areas in 2011: nuclear fusion and nuclear-waste management; stem cells and regenerative medicine; calculating the flux of carbon between land, oceans and atmosphere; materials science; information technology; public health and the environment.



The academy would set up a series of research centers, including a space science center, a center for clean and efficient use of coal, and a research center for geo-science devices. Three science parks will also be established in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, with the objective of accelerating the commercialization of scientific and technological research to create marketable products.

As a first step towards realizing its dream of developing clean nuclear energy, the Academy also launched plans of developing a thorium-fueled molten-salt nuclear reactor, which when functional will be a precious alternative safe fuel source. As Richard Martin writes in Wired magazine, "Designing a thorium-based molten-salt reactor could place China at the forefront of the race to build environmentally safe, cost-effective and politically palatable reactors."

Shortly after the Academy announced its focus areas, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that CAS will establish a world-class research platform and base for study of stem cell and regenerative medicine encompassing four research centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Kunming and leveraging the resources of 17 other institutions around the country. Zhou Qi, the chief scientist in the stem cell research project at the Academy is reported to have told the China Daily that Chinese scientists expect to hail a major breakthrough in the area sometime soon in the coming decade. The support from Innovation 2020 will certainly be crucial in heralding the same and moving towards large scale application in clinical treatment.

By 2020, more than 5,000 top scientists will work under the CAS.

The US has set goals and research labs for specific objectives in the past

The US has national research labs focused on physics and energy research. There is the California Institute for Regenerative Medicinewhich targets stem cell research and was funded with $3 billion.

The US has NASA, the space agency.

There is the ITER (tokomak facility and project) for research nuclear fusion and other facilities for laser and magnetic fusion.

So China's actions are not unusual or unique.

China is considering larger $1.5 trillion investments in seven areas that it considers to be strategic.

1. Alternative fuel cars

China's vehicle fleet has turned to many other power sources, including fuel cells, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and even liquefied natural gas, which is most commonly associated with huge storage tanks aboard ocean-going tankers.

The US is also spending billions on electric cars and alternative fuels.

2. Biotechnology

The chairman of state grains trading firm COFCO Ltd, Frank Ning, told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that biotechnology was the key to keeping supply and demand in balance in the future.

3. Energy-Saving and Environmentally friendly Technologies

Premier Wen Jiabao called for "pushing forward with building a smart grid" in the annual report to the National People's Congress in March.

State Grid Corp of China, which operates the bulk of the country's power transmission networks, envisages building an "informationised, automatic and interactive" grid with ultra high voltage (UHV) power lines over the next five years.

4. Alternative Energy

China has already launched a major drive into hydropower and, to a lesser extent, wind, gas and nuclear, to supplement the coal sector that provides about 70 percent of its electricity.

The government is expected to unveil a new alternative energy plan within months to raise its targets for power generating capacity from such sources by 2020, since the country has already surpassed many of the targets it set out in 2007.

The US also is spending on energy research via the DOE and the recovery act.


5. High End Manufacturing

China plans to build 13,000 km (8,078 miles) of high-speed rail lines by 2012, more than the rest of the world combined, and to invest 2 trillion yuan in railways by 2020, while building a fleet of state-of-the-art trains with the help of foreign firms including Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO), Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd (7012.T) and Alstom SA

The United States has a new $53 billion funding proposal for high speed rail (Obamarail to its critics)

6. Advanced materials

China's dominant position, supplying 97 percent of the world's rare earths, gives it a stranglehold on new technologies and puts huge costs on foreign competitors.

China is the world's largest producer of indium, a small but vital component for the flat-panel screens used in televisions and computer monitors.

China is also one of the world's top miners of lithium, a metal used in batteries, metal alloys, ceramics and nuclear weapons, which is expected to dominate the electric car industry in the next decade.

7. New Generation Information Technology

A Chinese-built supercomputer, the Tianhe-1, was ranked the world's fastest in October, with a theoretical speed of 4.7 petaflops per second.

The US government has bought 3 supercomputers that will have over ten petaflops of performance and be installed in 2012

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