The 2019 Two Sessions officially opened in Beijing on Sunday 4 March 2019. Many topics relating to science, technology and innovation occupied a key central position in several of the events that took place during the major political gathering. Below is a summary of the main points.
In his government work report, Premier Li Keqiang illustrated key priority areas for 2019:
- “Smart+”: the upgrade of traditional industries will be accelerated, mainly by encouraging and supporting enterprises to purchase and upgrade their machinery and equipment, also thanks to preferential support policies to be extended to all manufacturing sectors (note: several local administrations have already established ad hoc funds to the technological upgrading of machinery and production line. See for instance: Shanghai Industrial Transformation and Upgrading Programme; Jiangsu Enterprise Technology Upgrading Compensation Fund; Tianjin Intelligent Manufacturing Special Programme; etc.)
- “Internet+”: further the implementation of the Internet+ strategy in emerging industries, such as new generation ICT, high-end equipment, biopharmaceuticals, new energy vehicles, and new materials, also by deepening R&D and application of big data and artificial intelligence
- Internet speed and fees: internet speed will be increased, also thanks to demonstration projects to extend 1,000 MB broadband connectivity to urban homes, and to upgraded networks for remove education and healthcare. Internet fees and costs will be further reduced, by 15% for SMEs, and by 20% for mobile internet
- Strengthening of original innovation and basic research: support to basic and applied research will be strengthened to increase the levels of original innovation and accelerate breakthroughs in core technologies. In particular, the involvement and contribution of enterprises and local governments in basic and applied research – currently very low – will be enhanced, including in mathematics; enterprise-led industry-university-research cooperation mechanisms will be increasingly encouraged
- “Packaging system” pilot reform for research fund management: building on recent efforts to reduce paperwork and ease the burden of researchers while doing scientific research, a “packaging system” (baoganzhi) for fund management will be piloted. According to this system, researchers will not need have any major limitations on how their funding will be specifically spent (e.g. expenses for certain activities must account to a certain percentage of the total budget, etc.), as long as the expenses do not exceed the budget limit. The “packaging system” will start to be piloted from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)
- Simplification and streamlining: major efforts will be put to ensure that institutional reforms to simplify and streamline management procedures are fully enforced and implemented in practice
- Mass innovation and entrepreneurship: the registration VAT threshold for small-scale businesses will be increased from 30,000 RMB to 100,000 RMB. Financing mechanisms will also be further strengthened, especially with the establishment of the S&T Innovation Board and pilot registration system, encouraging the issuance of “mass innovation and entrepreneurship” financial bonds
- Ethics and integrity: ethics and integrity in scientific research will continue to be substantially strengthened and prioritised, while non-compliant cases will be severely punished
These topics were also further discussed and expanded in other side events during the Two Sessions, including during an inter-ministerial with MOST, MOF, MOE and CAS on seven actions to reduce the burdens of researchers (4 March 2019), an interview with MOST Minister Wang Zhigang during the “Minister Channel” event (8 March 2019), and an ad hoc 2-hour press conference with MOST Minister Wang Zhigang (11 March 2019).
Finally, an online platform for collecting the public’s opinions, priorities and suggestions for the formulation of a mid-long term 2021-2035 S&T development strategy was officially launched.
Government work report: full text (in Chinese)