Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing

Yang Yang
Pujiang First Bay, the birthplace of Shanghai's heavy industry, is marching toward smart manufacturing, with the Grand neoBay sci-tech innovation park leading the way.
Yang Yang

30 Years On

In 1992, a new Minhang District appeared in Shanghai through a combination of the old district and Shanghai County. Vast changes have taken place as the district went through its urbanization process. As an artery that connects Minhang with downtown Shanghai, Humin Road, with its patriotic origin, helps the district adapt to urban prosperity. The district sticks to traditional and unique elements. Use this column as a guide to explore Minhang, its changes and what remains the same by tracing along the Humin Road.

Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing
Chen Lei / Ti Gong

The Pujiang First Bay

Pujiang First Bay, the northern bend of the Huangpu River that flanks Minhang and Fengxian districts, boasts 50-kilometer-long riversides. The channel curves at almost the right angle. With the Huangpu River, Jinhui River and two tributaries of the Dazhi River converging at one point, the bay is also nicknamed the "Water Pentagram."

In 2015, Minhang District government, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Shanghai Land Group jointly built the neoBay innovative and sustainable industrial incubator here, the prototype of the Grand neoBay Sci-tech Innovation Park. The latter, encircled by the S32 Shanghai-Jiaxing-Huzhou Expressway in the north, Humin Road in the west, Hongmei Road S. in the east and the Huangpu River in the south, covers approximately 17 square kilometers.

The "Big Four Factories" – Shanghai Steam Turbine Factory, Shanghai Electrical Machinery Plant, Shanghai Heavy Machinery Plant and Shanghai Boiler Factory – created an era of prosperity for the district's energy equipment industry on Jiangchuan Road, which extends westward from the Jiangchuan Road Station of Metro Line 5 to the west of the Grand neoBay.

Pujiang First Bay, the birthplace of Shanghai's heavy industry, is seeing the transition of Minhang's industry toward smart manufacturing. The bay area was lauded for Shanghai's innovative spirit for its numerous water-control projects from ancient and modern times. It was also known for its improved ecological system, which included waterfront landscapes, protected forests, an artificial lake and pink muhly grass fields in the fall.

Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing
Dong Jun / SHINE

Lanxiang Lake of Zizhu area

Something retro

The Huangpu River, which connects Taihu Lake to the East China Sea via Pujiang First Bay, and the Loujiang and Suzhou rivers, used to be an inconspicuous river.

Since the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the three rivers have started to silt up. During rainy seasons, when the Taihu Lake failed to drain off water, the area suffered from frequent floods, hurting the agriculture and economy of the region. The condition worsened in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with heavy flooding in July 1403.

Water specialist Ye Zongxing from Minhang proposed to the minister of revenue to combine the estuaries of the Huangpu and Suzhou rivers (now the Bund). Pujiang First Bay was the first part of the project along the Huangpu River.

A second water-control project was implemented a century after the Huangpu and Suzhou rivers joined, and the latter became a tributary of the former.

Due to tidal waves from the East China Sea, the water level and flow of the Huangpu River changed three times a day, and the river was still responsible for periodic floods.

Hai Rui, a governor of Nanjing, then capital of the Ming Dynasty, did a survey of the river on site. He advised starting a new water-control project rather than constantly making up for damage from floods.

A dam was built to the east of the Jinhui River to reinforce the Huangpu River's direction of flow northward.

A third project involving Pujiang First Bay was the manual excavation of the Dazhi River that was done to tame floods and improve the saline and alkaline land conditions to the east of the Huangpu River.

In the winter of 1977, more than 300,000 laborers pushed about 2,000 wheelbarrows to form the excavation force. The river became a national sensation after the excavation work was completed on January 18, 1979. Dazhi River, 39.5 kilometers long, now stretches horizontally eastward through the neighboring Pudong New Area and connects the East China Sea.

Pujiang First Bay, with a topography like a water pentagram, was formed.

Minhang's No. 1 Road, or Jiangchuan Road, in the bay area, is witness to the rise of the district's mechanical and electrical industry.

In the 1950s, as China carried out the urban construction, new cities with a one-fold economic structure sprouted, including Baotou in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ma'anshan in Anhui Province and Panzhihua in Sichuan Province, known for their mining and steel industries.

Minhang Satellite City, known for its "Big Four Factories," was a byproduct of that era. Workers' communities with well-equipped three- or four-story buildings, a variety of shops and bustling boulevards were constructed alongside the No. 1 Road in 78 days.

The first coal generator, the first hydraulic press with a large tonnage, the first double-water internal cooling generator and the first nuclear power unit were all announced after that.

Power plants sprouted all over the country, transferring power over numerous power lines to sustain the nation's fledgling industry amid the roar of locally produced electrical machinery.

For instance, the Shanghai Steam Turbine Factory is making rapid progress after creating China's first steam turbine. "It keeps a pledge to revive a hitherto unimpressive industry. If it had altered its course and shown more flexibility, it might have grown more successful and made more money," a factory worker said.

After 50 years, the No. 1 Road was no longer in the spotlight as the district's heavy industry had completed its task.

Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing
Dong Jun / SHINE

Workers at the Shanghai Steam Turbine Factory, one of Minhang's "Big Four Factories."

Surging forward

About seven years ago, construction of the Grand neoBay was initiated in Pujiang First Bay.

"One decade ago, when I was studying at university, we only had a school bus connecting us with the outside world. The road outside the campus had no streetlights," said Jia Xiao, a graduate of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and founder of Shanghai Nayi Technology Co in Minhang.

"Everything has changed since the neoBay construction started," said Jia. "The place's development target is much like Silicon Valley in the United States."

Jia returned to Minhang from Silicon Valley in 2021 to launch his entrepreneurial career in the Grand neoBay.

The neoBay was initially an innovation platform, which was a stone's throw from Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Minhang Campus around Jianchuan and Cangyuan roads.

The university used to be frustrated with a lack of industrial incubators around the school. For the district, the southern area had two prestigious schools – Shanghai Jiao Tong University and East China Normal University, but without a proper sci-tech innovation ecology, talent was drained and scientific achievements were rare.

Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing
Dong Jun / SHINE

Science park of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Minhang campus

With China releasing sci-tech innovation propelling guidelines in 2015, Minhang District government, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Shanghai Land Group integrated resources to build the neoBay incubator that aims to be sustainable and collaborate with government, industry and academic resources.

Zhang Zhigang, general manager of Shanghai neoBay Venture Capital Co, pumped in 2 million yuan (US$278,600) into neoBay shares and became the first associate professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University who ventured into a business while retaining his faculty position.

Grand neoBay offered almost free offices to startup teams at that time and provided them with mentors and rich venture capital. The district also made its policy support better and gave the areas around it a facelift.

In May 2016, the incubator morphed from a single office building into a burgeoning sci-tech innovation park, a magnet for startups for students, alumni and young teachers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

A more ambitious blueprint for the neoBay was released in 2019, with the aim of building the park into a world-leading innovation community on par with Silicon Valley and Zhongguancun in Beijing.

So far, 16 sub-parks of the Grand neoBay, with about 560,000-square-meter sci-tech incubation space, have been taken up. About 700 companies, including CATL, Siemens and Goertek Optics, have settled in the park. Fifty of them have attracted a total of 5 billion yuan in finances.

The Grand neoBay is also a cluster of more than 10 research institutes and 20-odd national key labs and engineering research centers in sectors like aerospace, shipping and nuclear power equipment.

By 2025, it is expected to accommodate more than 1,000 high-tech companies, and by 2035, the Grand neoBay will become a cradle of sci-tech innovation and make Shanghai a global sci-tech innovation center along with Yangpu National Innovation City, Zhangjiang Science City and Huawei Qingpu Research Center.

Propelled by the development of the Grand neoBay, some of the old industrial facilities of Pujiang First Bay are taking on a new aspect. In November 2021, a former rubber factory reopened as a medical robot industrial park.

The bay, a witness of Minhang's frontier industrial pioneers, now sees the district's industrial course marching toward smart manufacturing.

Pujiang First Bay becoming a base for smart manufacturing
Dong Jun / SHINE

Grand neoBay Sci-tech Innovation Park

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