Science and technology changes the life while innovation shapes the future. Created by Pujiang Innovation Forum, the interview series program themed the “Nth Dimension of Parallel Future” aims to demonstrate the cutting-edge research and sparks of ideas of scientific innovators, young scientists and industry leaders. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a barometer of the social public health safety work. With “Opportunities and Challenges in the Post-pandemic Era” as the thematic direction, the brand-new chapter of the “Nth Dimension of Parallel Future” in 2020 has specially invited experts and scholars in different industry sectors to share their opinions about the industries, industry outlook and future development trends in the post-pandemic era from the perspective of their own professional fields.
Recently, Academician Xu Guanhua, Chairman of Pujiang Innovation Forum and former Minister of Science and Technology, made an analysis and judgment on how China should seize the new opportunities and face the new challenges of scientific and technological development in the post-pandemic era in the interview program " Nth Dimension of Parallel Future".
Q: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has posed new challenges to global economic growth. In your opinion, in the post-pandemic era, the critical period when the global economy is in urgent need of recovery, how should China seize the new opportunities and new driving forces of scientific and technological development and revive the economy through science and technology innovation?
At present, the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading globally, posing a huge threat to the lives and health of people around the world, a huge challenge to global public health security, and an overall impact on global production and demand. In particular, with the accelerated spread of overseas pandemic, the uncertainty of China's economic operation and the difficulty of macro-control are gradually increasing. Therefore, it is equally important to fight against COVID-19 and to take the initiative for economic development, compelling us to continuously enhance our ability to judge, control and respond in face of the complex and severe situations, and turn the current difficult stage into "the squat before the jump”, so as to achieve a new "leap".
President Xi Jinping has pointed out that benefiting mankind is the most powerful motivation for science and technology innovation. The pandemic has reduced people's economic activities, but it has also accumulated the momentum of scientific planning and quality and efficiency improvement for economic development. To a certain extent, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new opportunities for China's and the world's science and technology innovation and industrial upgrading, which need to be seized firmly. On the one hand, we should drive the development of science and technology innovation with the mission and demand to fight against the pandemic. During the pandemic, scientists around the world worked together to share and analyze key virus data to reveal the secrets of the pathogen within the shortest possible time. At the same time, information technology infrastructure based on artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things has played a key role in the medical treatment of COVID-19, the pandemic prevention and control, and even the reshaping of social order. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a vast number of practitioners in science and technology in China have resolutely implemented the important instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping and the decisions and deployment of the Central Committee of the CPC, and taken active actions and made all-out efforts to demonstrate the power and image of China’s science and technology. In the future, we will continue to increase our scientific and technological efforts in pandemic prevention and control; carry out in-depth scientific research and global cooperation in traceability, drugs, vaccines, and testing; actively make innovations in pandemic prevention and control services, and provide such services by means of "Internet plus" model. To expedite the establishment of an economic and social operation order that is compatible with the prevention and control of the pandemic, it is especially necessary to foster and develop new economic growth points through innovation. On the other hand, we should seize opportunities for industrial innovation and development to win greater development space. We should firmly grasp the major opportunities brought by the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, strengthen the exploration in frontier fields such as digital economy and artificial intelligence, and actively create new technologies, new industries, new business forms and new models. At present, the "home-bound economy" such as online office, cloud-based classes, and online consumption has risen rapidly, and emerging industries such as smart manufacturing, unmanned distribution, online consumption, and medical health have shown great potential for growth. All these are realistic portrayals of the opportunities among crises during the pandemic. This fully reminds us that it is possible to “gain at sunset after loss at sunrise” and the "crisis" can continuously transform into the "opportunity".
However, we need to be soberly aware that the pandemic has injected more uncertainties into the international environment of China's science and technology innovation, and in particular, the competition between China and the US will become more intense. Especially in recent years, the United States has imposed sanctions on China’s high-tech enterprises, exerted pressure on industrial policies, and restricted scientific research talents and academic exchanges through export restrictions, export blockade, entities lists, technology transfer lists, etc. Such situation will become more obvious in the post-pandemic era. Therefore, with regard to the way to develop China's science and technology innovation, I think the path of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics is the only way that we must follow unswervingly. In the future, China must concentrate on four key points to promote science and technology innovation. First, we should exert great efforts to cultivate high-level young talents. Talent determines everything, not only the present but also the future. Youth is an active and peak period for innovation. The analysis of the ages of 547 Nobel laureates when winning the prize shows that the age of 35 is the most productive age. Therefore, we must put the introduction of talents in a more prominent position, and make greater efforts to cultivate and use outstanding young and middle-aged talents. The second is to give energetic support to the innovation of small and medium-sized technological enterprises. From the perspective of science and technology, in China, 65% of invention patents are obtained and 80% of new products are created by small and medium-sized enterprises. The pandemic has had a serious impact on small and medium-sized enterprises. It is necessary to support large, medium and small-sized enterprises to restore market confidence and ensure their smooth resumption of operation and production. In particular, support should to be given to the Internet, big data, artificial intelligence, and block chain technologies to carry out intelligent, automated, and decentralized transformation of traditional industry enterprises, and accelerate the integration, socialization and platformization of the supply chain. The third is to continue to increase support for basic research. We should further deepen the reform of the scientific and technological system, fully mobilize the enthusiasm and creativity of scientific and technological personnel, rely on major scientific and technological infrastructure, industrial innovation centers, innovation laboratory clusters and leading science and technology innovation enterprises to deploy and initiate a batch of fundamental frontier projects including brain science, artificial intelligence, gene editing, stem cell and regenerative medicine, nanoscience and transformative materials, core mathematics and future computing, and life process regulation and design, and strengthen the research and development of generic technologies in basic and applied industries. The fourth is to actively participate in international scientific and technological cooperation. Over the years, researchers across the globe have carried out extensive and in-depth cooperation and achieved practical results on major issues such as climate change, energy security, sustainable development, and poverty eradication. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of strengthening international scientific and technological cooperation. We should deepen international exchanges and cooperation, integrate ourselves into the global network for science and technology innovation, deepen our participation in global scientific and technological governance, and promote independent innovation from a higher starting point by promoting the matchmaking of pragmatic cooperation projects, establishing a multi-level exchange and cooperation mechanism, organizing, participating in and implementing international big science programs, scientific engineering initiatives and other initiatives.
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