During the golden age of science and technology development that China has enjoyed since the 1980s, many key technical problems of socio-economic development have been solved through a combination of sci-tech research, the introduction of foreign technologies and technological upgrading. Since 1981, Chinese research has produced 583,000 important scientific and technological outcomes. In 2004, scientific and technological outcomes above provincial and ministerial level numbered 29,870, of which 2,029 related to basic theory, 26,425 to applied technology, and 1,416 to "soft" sciences.
In 2004, there were 93,352 theses from China embodied in the three world-renowned search systems, viz. Science Citation Index, Engineering Information and Index to Scientific and Technical Proceedings, accounting for 5.1 percent of all the world's theses.
Reflecting growth in innovation, patent applications are increasing; 2 million applications were filed in 2004, covering invention, utility model and external design. The National Intellectual Property Office received over 350,000 patent applications, and granted over 190,000 in the year, 4.4 percent above 2003 level.
Nanotechnology-related patent applications have grown particularly fast, reflecting that China was one of the few countries to start focusing on nano materials in the 1990s. Today there are 2,400 such patents, 12 percent of the world total, ranking the third in the world.