The Ministry of Science and Technology published two reports on Wednesday about China’s innovation status in 2016 and 2017. One evaluates the overall innovation capability, and the other is a detailed ranking and analysis of each province’s innovation conditions and resources, from funding to market.
According to the reports, China’s top five most-innovative municipalities and provinces on a scale of 100 are Beijing, 85; Shanghai, 84; Tianjin, 80; and the provinces of Guangdong, 77, and Jiangsu, 76. Last year, Shanghai topped the list with 84.57 points.
The points are calculated based on the area’s R&D spending, industrial productivity, commercialization of research findings, economic structure, talent pool, number of patents, environment and other factors affecting science and innovation.
The bottom five areas are the provinces of Qinghai, 42; Yunnan, 41, and Guizhou, 40.83; and the Xinjiang Uygur, 40.75; and Tibet autonomous regions, 31. The 2017 average innovation index for all provinces is 67.57, a 1.08-point increase from a year earlier.
“In general, the whole nation’s innovation capability has improved remarkably over past five years,” said Xu Jing, director of the ministry’s Office of Innovation and Development, adding that the nation’s average has increased by 7.3 points in the past five years.
“The coastal provinces are taking more than half of China’s overall innovation output, but the central and central-western provinces are catching up fast,” he said. Some notable examples include Hubei province, seventh place; the municipality of Chongqing, eighth place; and Anhui province, 15th place, all of which jumped several ranks in the past five years.
As for western provinces like Sichuan and Shaanxi, “their overall innovation capability is growing at breakneck pace, but they still lag behind other more developed provinces,” Xu said.
“Innovations from western provinces are also more closely linked with the Belt and Road Initiative, which can be a unique and fruitful development opportunity.”
To help western regions catch up, local governments have increased funding for basic research and commercialization of technologies, said Wu Yishan, vice-president of the ministry’s Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.
In the past five years, western provinces saw a 68.6 percent growth in funding, slightly higher than eastern provinces’ 67.3 percent. At the same time, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has quadrupled its patent outputs, while the Tibet, Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, and Qinghai have doubled theirs.
Although China’s patent and innovation outputs are rising, the reports also pointed out some issues, such as the average wages for researchers in 24 out of the 31 survey provinces, are below the national line.
At the same time, funding from governments and companies is starting to slow down in 2017, and pollution in more than a dozen provinces still fails to reach national standards.