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Policy background

China’s 13th five-year plan establishes the framework for economic and social development for the country in the period 2016-2020. It highlights the importance of research and development (R&D) in many sectors, including transport and infrastructure, in order to maintain the high economic growth that it has been experiencing since economic reform and opening-up policy in 1978.

The transport strategy detailed in this document focuses on developing smart, integrated and eco-friendly transportation networks. The aim is to build a comprehensive transport system that connects domestic and international transportation routes, extensively covers both urban and rural areas across regions, incorporates hubs with optimised functions and provides integrates, efficient services. R&D underpins China’s transport strategy as it acts as a fundamental tool to increase efficiency, coverage, and integration, and continue the economic, social and technological development.

Institutional framework of transport research

R&D policy is created and implemented by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The responsibility of managing R&D is held by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology. The major advisory bodies on policy to the CPC and the State Council are in three institutions directly affiliated to the State Council and are active in research funding:

  • Development Research Centre (DRC) which is a state agency responsible for policy research, strategy review and consulting on the economic and social development of mainland China;
  • Counsellor’s Office of the State Council which advises the government on national affairs;
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which functions as the national scientific think-tank, providing advisory and appraisal services on the national economy, social development, and science and technology progress

In December 2014, the State Council introduced a strategy to reform the R&D system through establishment of an open and unified national management platform re-organisation of national science, technology and innovation (STI) funding programmes into five new pillars. They are:

  • National Natural Science Fund: focusing on basic research and applied research in natural sciences. The Fund is administered by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the largest Chinese research funding agency in natural sciences directly affiliated to the State Council.
  • National S&T Major Projects (Megaprojects): 16 programmes addressing major key products, technologies and engineering of strategic importance for the country’s economy and industrial competitiveness. This funding stream is particularly relevant for transport research.
  • National Key R&D Programmes (NKPs): It incorporates several previously-existing programmes for basic research. It supports R&D in areas of social welfare and people’s livelihood, such as agriculture, energy and resources, environment, health.
  • Technology Innovation Guidance Funds: These funds invest in priority and strategic areas through venture capital funds, private equity, and risk compensations.
  • Bases and Talents Programme: aims to promote the establishment of scientific bases, and the fostering of top innovative talents and teams by supporting their research activities.

In addition to main these funding streams, there are several additional thematic funding programmes that are managed by Ministries of the respective sector. There are also additional local funding programmes that generally target local actors and international cooperation.

Funding Sources and Support Initiatives

EU-China Co-Funding Mechanism: A joint initiative launched by the EU and the Chinese Government to support joint research projects.