China looks to reward academic innovation to drive economic growth

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China will give greater financial rewards to innovative academics and small research bodies in a drive to convert interesting scientific ideas into commercial realities and rev up its high-tech industries as wider economic growth stalls.

China’s State Council said research bodies and university units who transferred their work to outside firms to develop and market should receive no less than half of the net income earned from the product as a reward.

China is trying to boost its high-tech industries, from medicines to computer chips, to offset a slowdown in manufacturing and exports that has dragged its economic growth to its slowest level in a quarter of a century.

“It is important to speed up the transfer of scientific achievements, open a channel between science and the economy and quickly create a new productive force,” the State Council said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The announcement, posted on the official central government website, followed a regular State Council meeting presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Academics would have greater freedom to do part-time work with external firms to develop products, while success in creating products would be taken into account when assessing research bodies and universities, the State Council said.

It said China would look to accelerate the creation of pilot zones with preferential tax policies for innovative business, as well as other financial or tax measures to support research units and individuals.

In November, China launched a pilot scheme to loosen approvals for new drugs and allow smaller research bodies to apply directly for approvals, part of a drive to create more innovative domestic drug firms.

Wang Bin, the deputy head of the China Association for Promotion of Private Sci-Tech Enterprises, told the official Xinhua news agency researchers often worried about getting into commercial projects for fear of harming their academic careers.

“The new policies will encourage more to venture into business,” he said.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Paul Tait