Chinese national innovation funding programmes
At the national level, there mainly exist five funding pillars for science, technology and innovation:
- The National Natural Science Fund, administered by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC): focusing on basic and applied research in natural sciences;
- National S&T Majorprojects (Megaprojects): focusing on major key products, technologies and engineering of strategic importance for China’s economy and industrial competitiveness;
- National Key R&D Programmes (NKPs): actively supporting well-defined and well-targeted R&D in areas of social welfare and people’s livelihood;
- The Technology Innovation Guiding Fund(s), stimulating the transfer and commercialisation of key results by investing in innovative start-ups and SMEs through venture capital funds, private equity, and risk compensations; and
- The Bases and Talents Programme, aiming to establish top-notch innovation bases and to foster talents and teams with global competitiveness.
One of the main characteristic of these five pillars of the Chinese national innovation funding programmes is their unified management structure. An inter-ministerial joint council formed by 31 ministries and government agencies and led by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) coordinates priorities, strategy, directions and budgeting, preventing overlaps across and within ministries. A committee of experts from technology, industry and finance fields also regularly provides strategic advises for each funding programme, while the daily management and operations are delegated to seven “project management professional agencies”. Dynamic adjustment mechanisms are also in place and triggered by MOST and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to ensure that all expected outputs are met.
The unified management structure and current layout of Chinese national STI funding programmes is the result of a major reform launched by the State Council in December 2014 (Guo Fa  No. 64) with the purpose of overcoming structural inefficiencies and overlaps that characterised the previous system, thus aiming achieve an increased and more channelled focus on key strategic and priority areas.
At the same time, another Chinese national innovation funding programme for recruiting high-level scientists and talents from overseas also exist at the central level: the Thousand Talents Plan. One category of this programme specifically targets foreign scientists.
More information on the above funding programmes, and on the reform of the Chinese national STI funding system, can be found below:
New open calls will be regularly published on the online programme database.