Background material concerning rural sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship

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The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has always attached great importance to rural agricultural sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship and developed long-term plans for it. With stepped-up support from the central government for science and technology development since the reform and opening up, particularly since the 11th Five-year Period (2006–2010), China’s agri-tech development has seen remarkable progress and played an important role in guaranteeing the country’s food security, advancing modern agriculture, and promoting the building of the new countryside. The contribution of sci-tech progress to the growth of agriculture has increased from 48% at the end of the 10th Five-year Period (2001-2005) to 53%. Breakthroughs that have been made in important basic and frontier agricultural research are accelerating the development of the agriculture. The agricultural industry’s core technological innovation capability has significantly improved, driving agricultural transformation. Achievements in the integration of key agricultural technologies have supported incremental growth of grain output and guaranteed the supply of major agricultural products. The agri-tech support system in rural areas has played an increasing role in advancing agri-tech entrepreneurship. Urbanization and the development of technologies immediate to rural livelihood have been advancing toward sustainable economic and social development in the countryside.

1. The National Technical Task Force (TTF) Initiative has achieved remarkable results. In June 2009, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture along with six other government agencies jointly issued the Opinion Concerning the National Technical Task Force Initiative for Agri-tech Entrepreneurship which formally launched the initiative. Over the more than two years since the launch of the initiative, substantial and effective measures have been taken nationwide to explore and advance rural sci-tech entrepreneurship, with strengthened TTF entrepreneurship chain and base development and the establishment of an effective long-term mechanism that integrates the efforts from the industry, higher-learning institutions and research institutes. As of the end of 2011, the initiative has covered nearly 90% of counties (cities) nationwide and sent 170,000 TTF personnel and 5,500 institutional TTF actors to the countryside. The initiative has been on the track of fast development.

2. Development of national agricultural sci-tech parks has been advancing steadily, with the “one city, two pilot zones and 100 parks” strategy having taken shape. Up to the present, a total of 65 national agricultural sci-tech parks of different features have been established with excellent results. Active efforts are underway to promote the strategic alliance among Beijing Modern Agriculture Science and Technology Park, Yangling National Agricultural High-tech Industries Pilot Zone and Yellow River Delta National Modern Agriculture Science and Technology Pilot Zone in order to promote the integration of agricultural sci-tech parks, the commercialization of agricultural sci-tech research results, the development of the agricultural industry, and the growth of farmers’ income.

3. The pilot program of promoting rural informatization in provinces has had extensive influence. MOST has made active efforts to implement the pilot program which was launched in 2010 by MOST along with the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The pilot program was implemented in full swing in Shandong and Hunan in 2011 and, upon joint approval of the three agencies, was expanded to include Anhui, Henan, Hubei, Guangdong and Chongqing. In accordance with the basic guideline of “platform upgrade, service extension, non-profit orientation, market-based operation” and in the light of the great demand for agricultural and rural informatization services, the program has constructed an efficient “Tri-networks Integration” information service expressway, built a comprehensive service platform featuring “resource integration, unified interface, real-time interaction, and professional service”, improved the new-type information service system accessible by every village, and established a number of pilot bases and exemplary informatization villages. These advancements have laid a solid technological foundation for agricultural transformation, urban-rural coordinated development, and the building of the new countryside.

4. Technological integration and innovation based on the National Sci-tech Project for Food Production have seen significant improvement. The National Sci-tech Project for Food Production, launched by MOST, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, and State Grain Administration as part of the effort to implement the State Council’s guideline of “concentrating labor, resources and funds to advance major agricultural sci-tech research projects and increase the technological content in agricultural production”, is a major sci-tech project for the purpose of ensuring the country’s food security and increasing agricultural output and farmers’ income.

5. Agricultural high-tech innovation capacity in the seed industry has been substantially strengthened. In the face of new situation, advancing the modern agricultural and forest seed industry holds great significance for promoting the long-term stable development of China’s agriculture and ensuring food security. During the 11th Five-year Period, the 863 Program and the National Key Technology R&D Program allocated a total of RMB1.64 billion of state grant and mobilized another nearly RMB900 million of local and self-raised funds for 27 research projects mainly on the development of crop, vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, plants, poultry, livestock, and aquaculture, including breeding of crop, trees, animals and plants; research on functional genomics of animals and plants; breeding and application of main crop varieties of strong heterosis; mariculture seedling; and breeding of new improved livestock and poultry varieties.

6. Remarkable achievements are scored in grassroots sci-tech work. Grassroots sci-tech work is an important component of China’s sci-tech endeavors and an important support and driver of China’s economic and social development. Grassroots sci-tech workers have played a major role in guaranteeing and improving rural livelihood and promoting urban-rural coordinated development and county-level economic, social and technological development. Firstly, assessment of sci-tech achievements has been further strengthened. Secondly, the special campaign geared to enrich people and strengthen counties through science and technology has brought excellent results. MOST and the Ministry of Finance worked out the overall design and specific regulations concerning the campaign. Thirdly, financial support for commercialization of sci-tech achievements has been advanced steadily, with a grant of RMB500 million earmarked for it in 2011. Project management has also improved, with a significantly increased number of completed projects. And fourthly, sci-tech based poverty reduction has been pushed ahead by improving and exploring innovative poverty relief mechanism in the light of the practical needs in poor areas and encouraging TTF personnel to start business in poverty-stricken areas. In 2011, a total of 76 sci-tech achievements and a total fund of nearly RMB70 million were introduced, and a total of 300 sessions of sci-tech training were held, attended by cumulatively more than 50,000 trainees/times. More than RMB10 million worth sci-tech materials of various kinds were donated, and financial support was provided for nearly 20 students from poor families.

7. International cooperation in agricultural science and technology has been remarkably accelerated. China-U.S. science and technology cooperation has gone deeper with substantial progress in agricultural flagship projects. MOST and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have reached a strategic cooperative agreement which has preliminarily set the focus of cooperation on modern agriculture by calling attention of agricultural research institutes and enterprises of both sides to the needs for technologies in poor countries and regions and jointly advancing the commercialization of agricultural sci-tech achievements and the application of these achievements in poor countries and regions in the effort to fulfill the strategic goal of eliminating or relieving poverty through the means of technology and gradually improve the self-development capacity of those countries and regions.

8. The new-type rural sci-tech service system has become increasingly full-featured. With agricultural industry chain development as the center and the research institutes on the development of new countryside as an important carrier, the central government and local governments have made joint efforts to promote the university-based rural sci-tech service model. Pilot projects have been launched at universities with agricultural expertise to establish a new-type nationally coordinated cross-region rural sci-tech innovation and service system that integrates industries, universities, research institutes and covers agriculture, science and education. Special efforts have been made to bring about a new rural sci-tech service environment where “public-benefiting promotion, socially-minded entrepreneurship and diversified service” are integrated and mutually supporting.

9. The Spark Program has significantly promoted economic invigoration and development in the rural areas. The Spark Program, launched by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council in 1986, was the first policy-guided sci-tech program targeting agriculture, countryside and farmers for the purpose of bringing mature, advanced and suitable technologies to the vast rural areas. In the 11th Five-year Period, the central government put in a cumulative RMB840 million of guiding fund and stimulated a cumulative investment of RMB193.9 billion at various levels, with a total of 7,144 Spark Program projects established. Support was given for the establishment of 173 national TTF rural sci-tech entrepreneurship chains, 65 national agricultural sci-tech parks, and 15 national Spark industrial clusters. A large number of pillar industries such as flower planting in Yunnan, fruit industry in Shaanxi and edible fungus industry in Fujian, creating 90 million employment opportunities and training 50 million farmers/migrant workers (times). By introducing suitable technologies to the rural areas, the Spark Program has powerfully promoted the development of modern agriculture and regional economies and instilled new energy into the rural areas, with obvious and generally recognized achievements.

10. Rural sci-tech plan management reform has achieved preliminary success. Acting in accordance with the guidelines of the 17th CPC National Congress and the 3rd, 4th and 5th sessions of the 17th Central Committee of the CPC, MOST issued the Several Opinions of MOST CPC Leading Group on Deepening the National Sci-tech Plan Management Reform which takes the deepening of the national sci-tech plan management reform as an important measure in implementing the Scientific Outlook on Development and first pilots it in the rural areas. The focus of the reform is, by way of simplifying project guidelines, expanding project application channels, establishing preparatory project database, launching major subjects and strengthening process management, to promote closer integration between sci-tech work and the country's economic and social development concerns, give full scope to the role of social forces in supporting rural sci-tech entrepreneurship, enable researchers to focus their energy on R&D, accelerate the creation and commercialization of research results, actively explore the integration between sci-tech research and the financial sector, and foster a better rural agri-tech innovation investment and commercialization environment. With the strong support of the relevant departments of the central government, local governments, research institutes, higher learning institutions, and a great number of specialists, the rural sci-tech plan management reform has achieved preliminary success and won great praises and positive responses from all circles of society.

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