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Forging a National Sci-Tech Innovation Hub in China's Twin-cities

By ZHAN CHENICHONGQING|Jan 14,2022

At the beginning of 2022, the Microelectronics Industry Technology Research Institute of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), which is located in Chongqing Xiyong Microelectronic Industrial Park of Western (Chongqing) Science City, started to recruit entrepreneurs, scientists, and postdoctoral fellows from home and abroad.

Since operation in September 2020, the UESTC Microelectronics Industry Technology Research Institute has been growing by leaps and bounds. So far, it has built up a scientific research team led by five outstanding national talents and has been approved as a new type of high-end research and development organization and a scientific research workstation for postdoctoral fellows of Chongqing Municipality. Looking ahead, it sets sights on a leader in technological innovation, industrial agglomeration, and talents pool in the integrated circuit field in western China.

Innovation is the paramount driving force for development. Therefore, building an influential sci-tech innovation center has been made one of the priorities of the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle. Over the past two years, Sichuan and Chongqing have made concerted efforts in this regard, leading to the faster building of an integrated sci-tech innovation hub.

Liangjiang Collaborative Innovation Zone in Chongqing. (iChongqing file photo)

Comprehensive science center

At the construction site of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Chongqing Science Center (Phase I) in Zengjia Town, Chongqing High-tech Industrial Development Zone, everything goes well at full speed. Over the past half a year after the construction started, three buildings have been built.

Constructed together by Chongqing Municipal People’s Government and CAS, the Chongqing Science Center focuses on big data intelligence, biomedicine, new materials, ecological environment, and other fields. It aims to build high-level research platforms for industrial innovation, the frontier of basic sciences, and major sci-tech infrastructure.

“Currently under construction, the three buildings belong to Section I of Phase I.” According to Chen Liejun, Deputy Manager of Section I, the architectural design of Phase I focuses on six disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geoscience, and biology of CAS to build six tower buildings and two exhibition and meeting centers to form “an eye of science.”

It is expected that the “eye of science” will be opened to the public this October. As one of the earliest entrants, the automotive software innovation research platform will bear in mind the national needs for building an independent auto industry, accelerate making breakthroughs in original innovation technologies and key core technologies on automotive software and develop a scientific research organization for automotive software that enjoys national leadership and world renown.

Meanwhile, by Xinglong Lake at Tianfu New Area in Chengdu, which is 300 kilometers away from Chongqing, the Tianfu Laboratory stands out. As important parts of Tianfu Laboratory, Tianfu Laboratory in Xinglong Lake, and Tianfu Yongxing Laboratory that focus on making plans and breakthroughs for electronic information and carbon neutrality were inaugurated in June and December 2021, respectively.

In December 2021, the construction of the National Sichuan-Tibet Railway Technology Innovation Center (Chengdu) was also started by Xinglong Lake. Once completed and put into service, it will provide solutions to scientific and technological problems facing Sichuan-Tibet Railway and amass resources to enhance national strategic technological strength. Chengdu Supercomputer Center, hailed as “Silicon Cube,” has developed a computing power of up to 100,000 trillion operations per second, ranking among the top ten all over the world.

Over the past two years, with the aim of building Chengdu-Chongqing comprehensive science center, Chengdu and Chongqing have accelerated amassing competitive innovation resources and put into use or implemented at a faster pace a number of major sci-tech infrastructure, key laboratories, and high-level innovation platforms, providing strong support for the building of a sci-tech innovation center with national influence.

Tianfu New Area in Chengdu. (iChongqing file photo)

Western Science City

As per the Planning Outline for the Construction of Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle, co-building the Western Science City is important for building a sci-tech innovation center with national influence. In fact, the construction of Western Science City has sped up, and a number of basic sci-tech infrastructure, sci-tech innovation platforms, and major projects have been planned at a faster pace in the past two years.

On May 27, 2021, Chongqing and Sichuan convened the collective commencement ceremony of 2021 major projects in a joint effort to build a sci-tech innovation center with nationwide influence. Then the construction of 40 projects has been announced to start at the four sub-venues, namely Western (Chongqing) Science City, Chongqing Liangjiang New Area, Western (Chengdu) Science City, and China (Mianyang) Science and Technology City.

As one of the projects, Chongqing Big Data Research Institute of Peking University has been put into use now with a digital transformation promotion center and twelve laboratories such as numerical calculation, TCM big data, and smart medicine. What supports them is abundant innovation resources from Peking University’s ten departments, including the School of Mathematical Sciences, the School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Information Management.

On December 17, 2021, the Administrative Committee of the Western (Chongqing) Science City and the Administrative Committee of the Western (Chengdu) Science City signed a strategic cooperation agreement. The two sides will strengthen cooperation in ten fields, including building and sharing major sci-tech infrastructure, making breakthroughs in core technologies, and facilitating exchange and interaction among universities and institutions. Meanwhile, the two sides will form an innovation system that involves all the chains from “basic scientific research and technological breakthrough to achievement commercialization and industrial development,” co-build the Chengdu-Chongqing scientific innovation corridor and become a sci-tech leader with leadership in western China, influence all over the country and presence across the globe.

Building an influential sci-tech innovation center has been made one of the priorities of the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle. (iChongqing file photo)

Coordinated innovation

When it comes to the field of microelectronics, Chengdu, home to abundant university and talents resources, enjoys an advantage in chip design. And Chongqing, as home to many chip enterprises, is competitive in chip manufacturing. Therefore, if Chengdu and Chongqing can work together on innovation, the integrated circuit industry will be strengthened comprehensively at a faster pace in both places, thereby injecting great momentum into the development of China’s chip industry. That’s why UESTC chose Chongqing and located its Microelectronics Industry Technology Research Institute at Xiyong Micro-electronics Industrial Park. 

So far, UESTC Microelectronics Industry Technology Research Institute has reached cooperation agreements with CETC Chongqing Acoustic-Optic-Electronic Co., Ltd., Chongqing Southwest Integrated Circuit Design Co., Ltd., United Microelectronics Center (CUMEC), China Resources Microelectronics Limited, and Chongqing Jixin Technology Co., Ltd. In the meanwhile, Chongqing Science and Technology Bureau and Sichuan Provincial Department of Science and Technology have cooperated to implement key research and development projects, explore the model for inter-provincial use of scientific research funds, and make breakthroughs in key core technologies.

In May 2021, Chongqing Science and Technology Bureau and Sichuan Provincial Department of Science and Technology started their cooperation on implementing key research and development projects. And the special funds were increased to 40 million yuan to expand the fields to environmental protection and modern agriculture besides artificial intelligence and healthcare. Notably, the biggest single investment of the final 16 projects to be funded reached two million yuan, which has doubled. In addition, among the municipal key laboratories newly accredited by Chongqing in 2021, five ones, including the laboratory for germplasm innovation and application of native plants, will be built jointly by Sichuan and Chongqing.

To pursue the coordinated progress in building two centers in Chongqing and Chengdu, Chongqing Science and Technology Bureau and Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Science and Technology signed another cooperation agreement on December 17, 2021, to cooperate on diverse fields, including making breakthroughs in key core technologies. In the future, the two sides will jointly implement the Chengdu-Chongqing cooperation plan on scientific innovation, identify and issue technical needs, encourage enterprises, universities, and institutions at the two places to submit applications in groups, and enhance coordination in innovation chain and industry chain.

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