China spends $279 bln on R&D in 2017: science minister

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang attends the International Forum on Electric Vehicle Pilot Cities and Industrial Development in Beijing, China June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s total spending on research and development is estimated to have hit 1.76 trillion yuan ($279 billion) last year, China’s science minister said on Monday, a year-on-year increase of 14 percent.

“China needs to enter the ranks of innovative countries and become a big technological innovation power by 2050,” minister Wan Gang told a media briefing.

“Basic research and frontier exploration is the big lesson that must be done now,” he said.

China has been trying to ease its dependence on low-end heavy industries and to develop less-polluting ways to promote economic growth and move up the global value chain.

The 2017 spending amounts to around 2.1 percent of total gross domestic product, Reuters calculated. This compares with around 2.8 percent in the United States, 2.9 percent in Germany and 3.3 percent in Japan, World Bank data for 2015 shows.

China’s annual R&D spending has risen 70.9 percent from 2012, Wan noted.

China has established dozens of new high-tech industrial parks and incubators aimed at promoting technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and big data.

The country is also investing heavily to dominate industries such as nuclear and renewable energy, high-speed trains and electric vehicles.

Wan told reporters that China was aiming to bring output of electric vehicles up to 2 million units by 2020, double the estimated volume for this year.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Eric Meijer