Investment in sci-tech continues to grow

Huang Yixuan
NBS chief statistician says R&D expenditure in 2019 was a record high, equivalent to 2.23 percent of GDP.
Huang Yixuan

China continued to increase its investment in science and technology in 2019, with research and development spending maintaining rapid growth and national fiscal expenditure on science and technology rising steadily.

R&D expenditure totaled 2.21 trillion yuan (US$321.88 billion) last year, an increase of 246.57 billion yuan, or 12.5 percent, over the previous year, data from the National Statistics Bureau showed on Thursday.

This was equivalent to 2.23 percent of the country's gross domestic product last year, which was 0.09 percentage points higher than that in 2018, said Deng Yongxu, chief statistician at the bureau’s social science and culture department.

Since 2013, China's yearly expenditure on R&D has remained the second-largest in the world, with the gap with the United States gradually narrowing. 

Spending on basic research grew at a rapid pace to top 133.56 billion yuan in 2019, an increase of 22.5 percent over the previous year which was 10.7 percentage points faster than 2018. It accounted for 6.03 percent of general R&D expenditure, 0.49 percentage points higher than the previous year, and the first year it had been over 6 percent.

Meanwhile, enterprises still played the strongest role and laid a solid foundation for China's R&D investment, Deng said. In 2019, the R&D expenditure of enterprises reached 1.69 trillion yuan, an increase of 11.1 percent over the previous year, accounting for 76.4 percent of national R&D spending and contributing 68.5 percent to its growth.

The regional development strategy had achieved remarkable results, Deng said. R&D spending in the eastern, central and western regions of China reached 1.51 trillion yuan, 416.26 billion yuan and 285.85 billion yuan, respectively, representing increases of 10.8 percent, 17.7 percent and 14.8 percent over the previous year.

The growth rate of R&D funding in some key regions was higher than the national average. R&D expenditure in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the Yangtze River Delta region reached 326.33 billion yuan and 672.79 billion yuan, up 14 percent and 12.9 percent from 2018, while that in the Yangtze River Economic Belt exceeded 1 trillion yuan, jumping 14.7 percent to reach 1.056 billion yuan.

China's fiscal expenditure on science and technology exceeded 1 trillion yuan last year to top 1.07 trillion yuan, an increase of 119.92 billion yuan or 12.6 percent over the previous year. 

Of this total, 417.32 billion yuan was spent on science and technology by the central government, an increase of 11.6 percent which was 2.3 percentage points faster than 2018, accounting for 38.9 percent of public expenditure on science and technology; while 654.42 billion yuan was contributed by local governments, up by 13.2 percent. 

"Both the central and local governments have maintained rapid growth in science and technology expenditure, which provided a strong guarantee for the promotion of science and technology innovation," Deng said.

The further improved policy environment also helped boost spending on sci-tech, with various policies and measures to encourage and support sci-tech innovation activities carried out, including tax deductions for R&D expenses and tax reduction or exemption for high-tech enterprises, Deng said.

"In the next stage, China should continue to increase financial support, strive to offer targeted support to key technologies and core areas, and ensure the implementation of relevant policies in detail.

"Meanwhile, we shall also widen the channels of funding, encourage all communities to increase investment in R&D, and create a sound academic ecology and innovative environment to further improve the initiative and autonomy of research academics.”

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