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Advancing Corporate Basic Research by Taking Advantage of the Situation

Oct 16,2019

By Lv Wei & Wang Minghui

Research Report Vol.21 No.5, 2019

“Original innovation and source supply must be enhanced,” states the National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline, in a bid to improve the forward-looking plan of basic research and ensure the safety, autonomy and controllability of core technologies. Also, “a diversified investment mechanism for basic research must be put in place to guide and encourage local organizations, enterprises and social forces to increase their basic research input” proposes the State Council’s Opinions on Strengthening Basic Science Research in an All-Round Way. It must be noted that to better encourage enterprises to conduct basic science research has become an important task today.

For better understanding about the basic research and policy demand of enterprises, an in-depth research into the enterprises with national laboratories in Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces has been conducted, with some findings and inspirations obtained.

I. Common Features of Corporate Basic Research

Some of Chinese enterprises have approached the forefront of technological development of the industry and started doing basic research after years of accumulation. Enterprises in the three places have shown common features as follows:

The motivation for research, mainly applied basic research, comes from corporate needs for development. Enterprises generally believe that it is a real need to conduct basic research in the current stage of development. In particular, when some enterprises command advanced technology of the industry and face greater difficulty in introducing technology, it is necessary to conduct basic research to support frontier technological innovation, solve technological bottlenecks in growth and provide technological reserve for developing the next generation of products. Therefore, the basic research carried out by enterprises is mostly applied basic research intended to address their own development problems. The research directions are based on the real needs of enterprises, and there is basically no case of research decoupled from practice.

The research mainly depends on internal R&D investment and external research force. It is found that the basic scientific research of the enterprises in the three places is largely underpinned by their cooperation with universities and scientific research institutes. The cooperation between enterprises and universities is greater than that between enterprises and scientific research institutes. Enterprises mainly rely on internal investment for basic research.

Corporate culture is important for basic research. A survey found four main types of enterprises that conduct basic research: first, the industry leaders which are in the international forefront in terms of technological ability and level ; second, the ownership-transformed scientific research institute with strong foundation and resources; third, the industry platform enterprises that conduct common basic research for the industry and contribute solutions to technical problems of enterprises; fourth, other enterprises, including those run by some researchers. Enterprises generally report that the business philosophy of the enterprises that conduct basic research attaches importance to scientific and technological innovation as basic research will not produce economic benefits in the short term.

Scientific and technological information plays an important role in the basic research of enterprises. Enterprises usually determine their basic research programs based on their own development needs and external scientific and technological information. They follow advanced international peers to determine research projects, or establish contact with universities and research institutes for relevant information, or track frontier scientific and technological papers and propose basic research programs through internal comprehensive research.

II. Main Factors Affecting the Basic Research of Enterprises

It is found via survey that the factors that prompt enterprises to better devote themselves to basic research are various and complicated, but several of them deserve attention.

In terms of basic research capability and motivation, enterprises generally believe that their small investment in basic research is mainly due to their lack of the competence. Some enterprises also believe that basic research results can be obtained from outside, with no need to conduct research on their own.


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