Around 20 to 30 per cent of the retail price of products like mobile phones and computers made in China actually goes to foreign patent holders, and about 50 per cent of technology used in China is imported, as is 60 per cent of key equipment, said Deng Nan, vice chairman of the official China Association for Science and Technology (Cast) at a conference last week.
"We have to change our concept from concentrating on the development of natural resources to the development of human resources," said Nan.
The appearance of numerous stories on innovation-related topics in state-controlled media recently highlights government concern over China's lack of high-level home-grown research. Cast will soon publish an official long-term plan to guide science and technology in China over the next 15 years.
China lags particularly badly in life sciences and related fields, while being more up to date in information processing, according to a report currently being finalised by the state-run National Research Centre for Science and Technology for Development. The report looks to private industry to fill the research gap.
However, the dominance of state-owned companies in China may hinder that goal. Last month an official reportedly described the innovation ability of the country's many state-owned enterprises as "feeble".
"There is a great gap between Chinese state-owned enterprises' input in research and technology and enterprises in developed countries," said Ji Xiaonan of the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
"If China is to become a world leader in science and technology it must pursue a development strategy based on innovation," said China's vice minister of science and technology, Cheng Jinpei, according to the People's Daily.
Last month one of China's largest TV producers said that local industry was threatened if it did not attempt to take control of key technologies used in its products, such as LCD panels.
Foreign intellectual property rights holders have repeatedly accused China of copying technology and products. A US researcher earlier this year said that Chinese manufacturers were suspected of using western patent filings "like recipe books ".
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