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Additional funds for research
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-03-04 09:45

The central government has set up a special fund for its 220 State key laboratories, in a move to boost research and development in the country.

"The central government's funding of scientific research has been growing at a greater ratio than the central budgetary revenue in recent years," Zhang Shaochun, vice-minister of finance, said at a joint working conference held by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance yesterday in Beijing.

The key labs will focus on fundamental, long-term research, those of strategic importance and for public welfare, in disciplines such as chemistry, life sciences, material science, mathematics, physics, information systems and engineering. They have a total staff of more than 10,000 and facilities valued at more than 8 billion yuan ($1.12 billion), Wan Gang, minister of science and technology, said.

A total of 88.1 billion yuan was allocated by the central government to scientific research last year, which was more than 20 percent higher than in 2006, official figures showed.

Wan said the key labs are surviving largely on research projects they won through competitions.

"It is time to provide them with stable funding so they can wholeheartedly pursue important, long-term research and are allowed room for failure in the process," he said.

The new fund will be used by the labs to design and implement their own projects, purchase facilities and equipment, and cover day-to-day expenses. The first 1.4 billion yuan will be distributed this month and the rest of the money for equipment upgrades will follow soon.

The labs play an "irreplaceable" role in China's science scene, Wan said.

They brought in 50 percent of the national awards for natural sciences between 1997 and last year. There are also more than 300 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering at these laboratories, out of a total of 1,879.

The labs are also where many of the country's major scientific breakthroughs have been made, such as those for the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, medical treatment of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the prevention of bird flu.

Projects of international cooperation are also being undertaken by the labs, among them a Human Genome Project, to produce a sequence of DNA, and an ITER Project, to build and operate an experimental device that aims to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

Source:China Daily 
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