Xi'an to ramp up sci-tech innovation in the next five years

By Zhu Bochen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, April 16, 2021
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A photo taken in Xi'an on Nov. 7, 2017, shows a 3D-printed artwork during the city's annual fair on "key and core" technologies. [Photo/VCG]

Xi'an, the capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi province, has laid out plans to step up efforts on both basic research and applied technologies in the next five years and further build its strength in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, life sciences, and space technologies.

The ambition, stipulated in the province's 14th Five-Year Plan, has driven home the importance of strengthening local enterprises' principal position in sci-tech innovation, fostering integration amongst industrial chains, and pooling the wisdom of research and development (R&D) personnel, especially those from abroad.

A sci-tech hub in NW China

Back in 2017, Xi'an put forward the initiative of reinventing itself into a national center of "key and core" generic technologies. Several high-tech enterprises and startups have thrived in the city since, working to build Xi'an's capacity in the fields of optoelectronics, smart healthcare, aviation and aerospace, as well as high-precision manufacturing.

One example is WaferChina, a Xi'an-based epi-house fab specialized in producing high-quality III-V compound semiconductor epi-wafers. Although only established approximately three years ago, the startup has already grown to be one of the leading players in China's semiconductor wafer industry.

The company's CEO, Gong Ping, spoke highly of the support and resources provided by the local government. As a senior engineer who used to work at IQE plc, the world-leading manufacturer of advanced semiconductor wafer products, Gong noted that China's institutional advantages are significant in helping to reduce the talent gap that exists in cutting-edge industries.

To redouble efforts in training professional personnel, the Chinese government at all levels has been working to establish an innovative mechanism that integrates the R&D of enterprises, universities, and research institutes. Meanwhile, enterprises are also supported to head major sci-tech programs.

Given such support, Xi'an has built itself into a major high-tech business incubator in northwest China. In 2019 alone, 1,053 additional national-level high-tech enterprises settled in Xi'an, bringing the total number of such enterprises in the city to 3,673, representing a 40.2% increase year on year.

Benefitting from the city's policy advantages and abundant resources, many high-tech startups in Xi'an have vowed to achieve leap-forward development during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. 

For instance, OLED company Lighte Optoelectronics Material plans to introduce relevant supporting businesses in northwest China and build a complete industrial chain to help its products achieve full coverage of the market. Additionally, Inquire Life Diagnostics, a local genetic testing service provider, looks to become the country's leading force in infectious disease testing.

A proactive policy on attracting talents

To help fully leverage Xi'an's strength as a pivot of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the city's government has increased R&D investment and rolled out a series of favorable policies to pool foreign wisdom.

Over the years, spending on R&D of Shaanxi province, especially Xi'an, has consistently ranked top in central and western China. 

According to statistics from 2019, Shaanxi's total R&D investment came 13th in the country, while its R&D spending reaching 2.27% of its GDP, ranking seventh in China. Xi'an city, meanwhile, ranked the seventh among all Chinese cities in terms of total R&D investment in 2019, while its R&D spending amounted to 5.17% of its GDP, coming only second to Beijing.

Xi'an's 2021 government work report demonstrates even greater ambitions, stipulating that its spending on R&D shall rank the first in China with consistent input of 5% and above of the city's GDP.

In addition, the city's governing bodies have adopted a set of proactive, open, and effective policies to attract foreign experts and R&D personnel and provide all-around supporting services for them.

Specifically, institutional improvement shall take place relating to talent sourcing, training, and the evaluation of foreign experts, as well as talent flow and some incentive programs. Government bodies and enterprises are also working to make the daily life of high-level talents more convenient. This includes providing help with housing, schooling of their children, employment of spouses, financial services, and healthcare.

Such convenience has so far been widely appreciated among foreign expatriates, many of which have stated that Xi'an is the most welcoming Chinese city for immigrants.

"When I need anything for my daily life, I find myself surrounded by advanced technologies such as WeChat, fast delivery, and the high-speed railway, and this is just brilliant," said a British machinist with Xi'an Superconducting Magnet Technology.

A new pacesetter for opening-up

Since March 2017, when the State Council issued a circular to establish a pilot free trade zone (FTZ) in the inland province of Shaanxi, Xi'an has gained new momentum for opening-up, in addition to the momentum already brought by the BRI.

By drawing on advanced experience from the rest of the world to facilitate investment and improve its business environment, Xi'an is making steady progress in building a high-standard FTZ.

For example, global trade in the pilot FTZ has been further facilitated by the building of platforms for cross-border e-commerce and business related to RMB settlement. The city has also promoted facilitation in its finance service sector by simplifying bank procedures and inputting companies' taxation information into a big data platform.

In addition, Xi'an has also helped the national project for further opening-up, participating in the construction of the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Central and Western Asia Economic Corridor, and the new land-sea transit routes for the western region.

Domestically, it has cooperated with cities and ports in China's eastern coastal region, in a bid to build a Eurasian corridor for land-sea trade. The city has also spared no effort in mitigating the impact of COVID-19, ensuring the smooth operation and delivery of supplies via the China-Europe freight train. 

In the next five years, Xi'an will continue to aim high as it seeks to become a corridor for central, southern, and western Asian countries, as well as a hub for trade and logistics and a base for key industries and people-to-people exchange.

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