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Yangtze River delta plays lead role in innovation, lawmaker says

LMS| Updated: February 23, 2024

Its solid, comprehensive strength will see the Yangtze River Delta region continue to play a leading role in China's scientific and technological innovation in the age of high-quality development, according to a National People's Congress deputy from Shanghai.

In many cutting-edge industrial and technological fields, such as artificial intelligence and biomedicine, the region — with Shanghai at its core — is at the forefront in China, NPC deputy Quan Heng said after conducting research on scientific and technological innovation in the delta region over the past year.

"Through our visits and research, we saw that the Yangtze River Delta region has a profound foundation in research and development, an excellent reservoir of industrial strength and talent, and capital advantages," said Quan, who is also a professor and Party secretary of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"We also hope that the region can press ahead with the construction of a community of scientific and technological innovation with a shared future, so that each element of innovation can find its best position in this community and give full play to its greatest role."

The integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region, which generates roughly a quarter of the country's GDP, was made a national strategy in 2018. As a region characterized by economic vibrancy and high openness, it is also an important part of China's further reform and opening-up.

Quan said the different provincial-level areas in the region have their respective advantages. For example, Shanghai owns an edge in original research and development, and talent. Jiangsu's industrial base, especially in the physical manufacturing industry, is well developed. Zhejiang is a leader in the digital economy and has an advantage in capital and the private sector.

"Scientific and technological innovation in the delta region is undergoing unprecedented development, and the integration of the innovation chain, industrial chain, capital chain and talent chain is also getting better than ever," Quan said.

"Globally cutting-edge fields, such as AI, biomedicine and integrated circuits, and some emerging new formats, new models and new industries driven by digitalization are having a strong presence in the entire Yangtze River Economic Belt with the delta region as the lead. It also helped boost local R&D capabilities in relevant realms."

But Quan said social resources may be wasted when local governments and enterprises compete around the same projects.

"The delta region can do better in strengthening coordination, giving full play to the innovative resources and advantages of various places and forming a joint force for innovation," he said.

"Each unit should think of its role and advantage in the entire innovation chain throughout the delta region under a form of consultation and sharing."

Quan likened it to a big project, such as China's C919 passenger jet, where many small and medium-sized enterprises in the delta provided support, functioning as suppliers of raw materials, parts and components.

He said Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, did a good job in gathering the best parts of innovation from different players. It has recently established four industrial alliances in AI, new energy vehicles, advanced technology and the environment in an effort to combine resources and strengths from industries and universities throughout the delta region.

The Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center also took the initiative to collaborate with Shanghai's Zhangjiang Science City to push forward the construction and research of some innovative projects.

"The most valuable significance of such R&D lies in that it's not about a specific product or program," Quan said. "Instead, it helps build up industrial chains, which play a role in promoting the stability and safety of industrial chains and supply chains of our country."

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