City wants to be destination of choice for major global efforts, breakthroughs
After burnishing its credentials as a hub for finance and shipping, Shanghai is looking to be the primary global destination for science and technology efforts, according to a municipal government guideline.
To bolster that goal, the city will promote the construction of a national science center and develop several key industries including integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence, authorities said during a news briefing on Shanghai's high-quality growth on April 10.
The Zhangjiang Comprehensive National Science Center is being designed to focus on integrated circuits and life sciences, according to internal documents. The center, located in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, will also be responsible for devising major science and technology infrastructure, such as hard X-rays, ultra-intense and ultrashort pulse lasers, and other photon science-related technologies.
Chen Yujun, head of the strategy department of Shanghai Huahong Integrated Circuit Co Ltd, said the city's rich industrial resources have helped make it one of the world's most comprehensive chip clusters.
"We have seen the mushrooming of 239 chip design companies, nine water fabrication foundries and a number of world-leading integrated circuit packaging firms in Shanghai's Zhangjiang Science City," he said.
"We cannot afford to have a stranglehold on strategically critical industries and miss the window of opportunity to gain an edge in many of these critical application scenarios."
By the end of 2018, 441 foreign-invested companies have established research and development centers in Shanghai, including a series of open-innovation initiatives like Johnson & Johnson's JLABS, where innovation finds its root through local knowledge and partnerships.
Also taking advantage of the "economies of scale" is the artificial intelligence sector. Shanghai has dedicated a zone called AIsland, where the 66,000 square meter working space hosts a slew of AI-research firms.
The premier batch of 20 companies included global organizations and local startup firms such as Microsoft, Alibaba, CloudWalk Technology and a research facility affiliated to the Tongji University.
Microsoft is on course to open an AI and internet of things lab on the "island" in May. This will be its third and largest such facility worldwide, through which roughly 300 local clients each year stand to benefit from turning prototyping into products, said Hsiao-Wuen Hon, vice-president of Microsoft and the managing director of Microsoft Research Asia.
"The profile of these companies, together with the cluster of companies from the upstream and downstream sectors, would help AIsland lead the national AI pack and secure Shanghai's position as a budding highland for tech innovation," said Yuan Tao, chairman of Shanghai Zhangjiang Group, the operator of the Zhangjiang Science City.
Official data show that Shanghai is sparing no effort in driving technological breakthroughs. R&D spending in Shanghai last year accounted for 4 percent of its 3.27 trillion yuan ($488 billion) total GDP. The number of patents held by every 10,000 residents consequently surged to 47.5 from 13.3 in 2011.
Shanghai's efforts to become a global tech hub started gaining steam in 2016 when it officially announced its ambition to transform itself into a science and technology center. Four major tasks, including establishing a comprehensive national science center and implementing basic projects and strategic programs, were identified as being crucial to the achievement of this goal.