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More support for science projects and young scientists

Zhang Yangfei
Updated: May 26, 2021 07:19    China Daily

China plans to widen the scope of, and give more support to, science projects led by young scientists. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Science and Technology released the 2021 guideline for applications for national key R&D programs, covering a wide range of areas, from new strategic electronic materials and rare earth new materials to high-end smart materials, and Earth observation and navigation.

Zheng Jianjian, an official from the ministry's Department of Resource Allocation and Management, said the aim is to dedicate about 80 percent of the initiative to setting up special projects for young scientists, and supporting more than 230 teams of young scientists this year.

According to the ministry's data, the government allocated 874 million yuan ($136.15 million) for 235 projects for young scientists during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, and under the national key R&D programs, projects in eight key areas were established for young scientists, including nanotechnology, synthetic biology and digital diagnosis equipment development.

"The plan aims to establish more projects, with a wider scope, for young scientists to further expand the fields of study for young researchers and to train more outstanding talents through a national-level platform," Zheng said.

Young researchers can participate in different fields of studies by choosing different research topics under separate projects, or in independent projects with no subordinate research topics, and without any budget evaluation, according to Zheng.

Unlike basic research projects funded by the National Natural Science Foundation, the key national R&D programs for young scientists will focus on major strategic tasks of the country and will be more demand-driven and goal-oriented, he said.

However, there is an age limit for the applicants. For frontier research areas, male applicants should be below 35 years of age and females below 38. For other fields, the age limit is below 38 for men and below 40 for women.

Addressing a news briefing while introducing China's next plan for innovation-driven development in February, Xie Xin, head of the ministry's Department of Resource Allocation and Management, said: "Young people will be the main force advancing science and technology during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period. We should give them a higher and bigger platform, let them undertake independent tasks, take the lead in organizing national projects, and be bold and innovative in the process."

The guideline was issued as part of the 14th Five-Year Plan, which was adopted in March at the annual session of the National People's Congress. It is aimed at building a high-level talent pool of young scientists with international competitiveness.

Some academic institutions have already started inviting young talents to apply for the programs. For example, East China Normal University held a meeting in April, asking young researchers at the university to make full use of the preferential policy and build strong teams to apply and contribute to the country's scientific and technological development.

Some local governments, too, have issued policies to encourage youths to engage in innovation-oriented research. In April, Chongqing issued 17 concrete measures to attract and cultivate talents aged below 40. The Chongqing local government plans to select at least 100 young talents each year and give them incentives and funds of up to 400,000 yuan for research. As for young entrepreneurs, they can apply for interest-free loans of up to 2 million yuan loans, and high-quality entrepreneur projects can get an extra 500,000 yuan.

The other advantages include allowances, housing, vocational training and entrepreneurial guidance, which are aimed at creating a more favorable environment for young talents to engage in research and innovation.