Universities at the Heart of China’s Innovation Race

HANGZHOU, China, Jan. 19, 2018 /Xinhua-AsiaNet/– In recognition of their work towards the prevention of infectious diseases, including the deadly H7N9 Bird Flu virus, a team led by Professor Li Lanjuan have been presented with the Grand Prize of China’s National Science and Technology Progress Awards on January 8th, 2018.

A member of Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), Li serves as the director of the State Key Laboratory for Infectious Diseases Diagnosis and Treatment at the First Affiliated Hospital of the Medical School of Zhejiang University (ZJU).

The Award is the highest level of recognition for technological performance in the country. Li and her team established an innovative model for prevention and treatment of epidemic disease, successfully preventing and controlling the spread of the H7N9 bird flu virus in 2013. It was the first time that Chinese scientists had independently contained a major epidemic.

While not only avoiding the recurrence of the tragic SARS outbreak of 2003, Li’s approach has since helped safeguard China against recent global outbreaks of the likes of MERS and ZIKA. Most notably, its outstanding performance when fighting Ebola allowed this new approach to have a global impact. The method, created by Li and her team, was praised as an example to follow internationally by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Three other projects led by ZJU professors were also commended with a 2017 Science and Technology Award. According to Shanghai Ranking, over the past five years, Tsinghua University has been leading nationwide with a total of 37 national science and technology awards, followed by ZJU, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Peking University.

Founded in 1897, ZJU is one of the oldest modern higher education institutions in China and has become one of its leading universities. The latest ESI (Essential Science Indicators) statistics place ZJU among the top 1% globally in 18 disciplines and in the top 100 in another seven disciplines, seeing it stand in second among Chinese universities.

“Innovation has always been the soul and the key competitive advantage of our university in its pursuit of becoming a world-class institution,” Professor Wu Zhaohui, president of ZJU, said. “In recent years, Zhejiang University has strengthened in a wide range of unique fields, nurturing a large amount of internationally significant scientific research.”

The Statistical Report on Chinese Sci-tech Paper in 2016, released by the Institute of Science and Technology Information of China, ranks ZJU first tier among many lists of domestic higher education institutions. Meanwhile, 6,231 papers credited to ZJU are indexed by SCI, making it China’s leader. ZJU also boasts the most invention patents of any university in the country with 1,738.

“We have many innovative teams similar to Li’s,” explained Professor Yan Jianhua, the University’s vice president. There has been an active shift towards nurturing the nation’s innovation-driven development in recent years. By aiming to perfect its top-level design, push forward basic research and high-tech industrialisation, China has been trying to create an ecosystem that is conducive to technological innovation. As a result, researchers at higher education institutions have been encouraged to be more active, enterprising and innovative.

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology’s recent Monitoring Report on Chinese Universities’ Innovation Capacity revealed that this policy shift has seen Chinese universities redirected from pursuing physical expansion to qualitative development, leading to rapid growth in scientific and technological innovation. Improving the capacity to fulfill this aim, cultivating prospering talent and channelling this into meaningful output were particularly highlighted.

The Ministry of Education’s 2017 Top Ten Scientific and Technological Progress of Chinese Universities and Colleges featured a team led by Professor Chen Yunmin from ZJU, who developed a dynamic system for testing high-speed train safety.

Developing a method for assessing the settlement of railway tracks, they tackled the difficulties in repairing tracks without suspending train services and have already had an impact throughout China. Its application can now be found in the construction and maintenance on the Jinghu (Beijing-Shanghai), Huning (Shanghai-Nanjing) and Huhang (Shanghai-Hangzhou) railways, as well as the underground systems in cities like Hangzhou and Ningbo. Such technological advances will have far-reaching implications as China reaches out globally to build a community of shared future.

“Innovation is the greatest driver of development,” Wu emphasised. “Universities should be a source of strength and a leading engine for innovation-oriented development.”

With the country’s technological impact being felt globally, Wu believes that in the future, ZJU will be positioned at the international forefront of development, expanding its capacity to push boundaries and increase its ability to serve society as universities continue to compete to be a leader in China.

Source: Zhejiang University (ZJU)

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