Chen Qiang: The Key to Enhancing the Effectiveness of the “Basic Research Special Zone” Lies in Properly Handling Three Pairs of Relationships
Tue, Aug 22, 2023
As the old saying goes, “When the foundations are not stable, the earth moves and the mountains shake.” High basic research levels and skills have become necessary for improving the effectiveness of the national innovation system. During the 3rd Collective Study Session of the Political Bureau of the 20th CPC Central Committee, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized, “We must deepen the institutional reform of basic research and give full play to the value-driven and strategy-directed role of systems and policies.” Basic research is characterized by its lengthy cycle, variable path, uncertain output and low success rate, and has special requirements for investment methods, management models, evaluation systems, support conditions and environment construction.
Shanghai was the first city in China to launch a pilot “basic research special zone” two years ago. The initiative aimed to create a “small environment” suitable for basic research, provide funding and assistance to pilot entities for selecting research topics, organizing research and managing funds on their own and increase the number of world-class talent teams engaged in “leading-edge research”. The “basic research special zone” has made multidimensional “special handling” attempts in terms of institutional guarantees and policy guidance. As a localized reform exploration of the basic research system, the significance of the “basic research special zone” lies not only in fostering the emergence of cutting-edge and original achievements but also in the growth of talents and teams, the improvement of basic scientific research organizational levels and the formation of systemic capabilities for basic research. Therefore, in order to make this “special” program reasonable and effective, it is necessary to properly manage the following three pairs of relationships. As a result, the “basic research special zone” can fulfill its purpose and provide basic research workers with adequate support.
The three pairs of relationships are: the relationship between delegating autonomy and implementing primary responsibility; the relationship between free exploration and driving by major sci-tech issues; and the relationship between the small environment and the big ecosystem.
Original article published in Shanghai Observer on August 16, 2023