Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fudan University have become the first basic research institutes to be included in a pilot program initiated by the Shanghai government to accelerate the city's development into a world-class science and technology center.
According to a guideline released by the municipal government on Tuesday, the program will bring together local universities and basic scientific research institutes, provide them with funding every five years and give them full autonomy over choosing research topics, conducting scientific research and use of the funds.
In addition, the program will facilitate innovation in the basic research management mechanisms of the institutes and universities, including the mechanism for selecting non-consensus projects.
"Scientists are at the core of fundamental research, which is the long-term exploration of knowledge that needs sustained support, and the program will contribute to creating open, inclusive research environments," said Zhu Qigao, deputy director of the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission.
Sun Lizhen, vice-dean of the office of research management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said that under the guideline, the university will support scholars under the age of 35 to carry out original research on 125 important questions in science released by the Science journal and the university in April.
"The program will benefit the advanced deployment of national major scientific issues and motivate researchers to bring forth new ideas," she added.
The city will also launch an "Explorer Program" to help enterprises and the government jointly establish scientific research plans, donate to or set up foundations, and cooperate with the National Natural Science Foundation of China in establishing joint regional innovation and development funds.
Zhu said the commission has cooperated with local firms, including medical imaging devices developer United Imaging Group, to jointly fund research projects on integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence this year.
"We'll draw on such experience and promote the transfer of research results of the projects," he added.
The guideline said the government will work on a scientific and technological evaluation system and a funding management system based on trust and integrity to give scientific researchers greater autonomy in the use of funds.
The city will also cultivate new generations of scientists and engineers and foster interdisciplinary research and international exchanges in basic research.
"Basic research requires efforts from both the research community and industry and better connections between them," said Shi Qian, director of the Shanghai Institute for Science of Science.
"Enterprises should strengthen their capabilities in independent innovation, in addition to transferring the knowledge and technology."
Shanghai wants basic research expenditure to account for around 12 percent of the city's total research and development expenditure by 2025, with total R&D expenditure expected to make up 4.5 percent of the city's GDP, according to the city's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) on building a world-class science and technology center, which was released on Sept 29.
"The programs will be crucial measures to reach the goals," Shi said. "Support from all sectors will raise social consensus on basic research and connect basic research to the innovation needs of enterprises for the development of basic and applied research as well as corresponding industrialization."