Innovation gives impetus to China's development in past decade, says Oxford scholar

China has been following a distinctive path of an open national innovation system over the past decade, which has given fresh impetus to its economic development, setting an example for other countries, an Oxford-based scholar has said.

The approach "uses a combination of the state and the market to drive innovation and has integrated the country into the global innovation system," said Fu Xiaolan, founding director of the Technology and Management Center for Development at the University of Oxford, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Under the system with Chinese characteristics featuring dual drivers, dual markets and dual resources, "China has had access to both indigenous and foreign markets, knowledge and resources," Fu said.

The Oxford Handbook of China Innovation, a new book co-edited by Fu explaining and analyzing China's innovation development and its prospects, was launched in July. In the book, more than 60 experts worldwide offered their perspectives on China's innovation development focusing on policy discussion and views on further progress to become a leader in global innovation.

Increase in innovation investment & collaboration

According to Fu, China in the past decade saw a significant increase in investment in innovation and strengthened capacity for independent innovation, along with proactive international innovation collaboration marked by international cooperation in research and development (R&D), establishment of overseas R&D centers, and international mobility of talents.

During this period of time, she added, some innovation models with Chinese characteristics have emerged, such as the energy-saving innovation, which "not only reduces production costs and makes innovative products and services available to more low- and middle-income families, but also saves raw materials and investments, fulfilling the need for sustainable development."

Alongside China's innovation development, Chinese companies have moved up the global value chain as well, said Fu. "Some Chinese companies have joined the global value chain to learn and innovate, while some Chinese multinational enterprises are already leading innovation along the global value chain."

As a result, breakthroughs were made in many innovation industries and fields, such as digital innovation, which has helped boost China's digital economy to the top tier in the world, Fu noted. On top of that, fields like artificial intelligence, aerospace, deep-sea exploration, and new energy have all seen impressive achievements, contributing to the country's economic development, she added.

Reasons for remarkable progress

Speaking of the reasons for such progress, the scholar attributed it partly to the fact that China has been constantly exploring an innovation model that suits its needs. "The Chinese government has kept on introducing new innovation policies and improving them, pushing forward reforms, and encouraging efforts to explore different innovation models," Fu said.

China has also seen deeper public awareness of the importance of innovation in past years, she added. "With the constant development of the Chinese economy and world science and technology as well as changes in the international situation, the awareness has taken root in the minds of the government, enterprises and the public," Fu said.

Finally, China's innovation ecosystem has made remarkable progress in the last decade, as R&D investments have continued to increase.

China has set an example for other countries as well. "Featuring dual drivers, dual markets, and dual resources, the system invites all kinds of market players, whether state-owned, private or foreign-owned, to play a role," Fu said. "That's the experience other developing countries could learn from."

Innovation takes time and patience, but China is already on the right path to innovation, Fu said. As was shown on the Global Innovation Index 2021 released by the World Intellectual Property Organization, China has risen to 12th place globally in innovation.

"By continuing to move along the current path and continuously improving its innovation environment and mechanism, China will definitely become an innovation powerhouse," she said.

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