Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Success of ZGC Science Park, China

by Anastasiia Shirinina

In the 1980s, the idea of a science park establishment quickly moved beyond the Western countries and parks were also established in Brazil, India, Malaysia, in the former "Eastern Bloc" - in Eastern Europe, CIS and China.  There are about 400 science parks created in the world today. Many others are in the process of creation. The success of science parks in promoting technology transfers and attracting clusters of technologically intensive and innovative firms has motivated countries all over the world, including China, to give an incentive to regional development. Due to the economic significance of China, its unique and complicated political and economic structure, the increasing number of foreign investments targeted to diverse spheres of Chinese economy, its considerable integration into global economy, the Chinese model of science parks can be a very peculiar example.

Zhongguancun (ZGC) Science Park in Beijing is the first and largest science park and cluster of semiconductor, computer, telecommunications and other firms in China. This park is not only a considerable income and research contributor of the economy, but also it bears a historical significance in providing the important transition from government control to relative freedom; moreover, it gave a rise of technological creation and transformation, new science parks foundation based on the government strategy to promote science.

The huge Chinese Zhongguancun Science Park is integrated into the city of Beijing, what is a very typical trend in the last quarter century - "science park in the city",  what makes it easier to connect innovators with financiers, moreover, the park itself reinforces the development of the city. However, all fragments of the parks are located in different parts of Beijing, where the large sub-parks usually have own specialization: software and electronics, new energy and industrial design, new materials, biotechnology, medicine, digital media, creative industries, etc.

There are over 22,000 companies (9 per day were recorded at the peak of development) and about a million employees in this park. No other places in China have such a large pool of talents as ZGC Science Park does. This is the "youngest" region in China - the average age of people here does not exceed 30. Park consists of more than 30 leading universities like Peking University and Tsinghua University, over 200 research institutions represented by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Academy of Engineering, the largest national library in Asia, and the State Patent Office. The average annual income of the ZGC Park is $75 billion, including 650 companies with annual income more than $10 billion. The park is developing rapidly: profits volume of scientific and technological development has increased by 30% per year at the end of the last century, in the last decade it gave a steady growth over 25% per year.

It all started in October 23, 1980 - one of the scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences Chen Chunxiao opened the first office of technological development at Zhongguancun street. Chinese economy at the time was in the rapid process of transition to a market economy and was extensively developing. After six years there were about 100 innovation companies, dealing with electronic equipment and marketing. The street became known as "e-street".

The computer era and then Internet era came. Communist Party of China quickly realized what an important phenomenon emerged in the street Zhongguancun, and decided to support it. In June 1999, the "Zhongguancun Science and Technology area of development" was officially opened under the motto "develop science and technology for the construction of the state." This is how the first Science Park appeared in China.

Zhongguancun Park has been created and developed as a top national project under the strict guidance of the Chinese government. However, in August 18, 2000 (almost a year before WTO accession) it was privatized to Beijing ZGC Life Science Park Development Co., Ltd. what was approved by Beijing Municipal Government. This was a breaking point and significant step to marketization of the economy and reason for a rapid rise of the other science parks and scientific centers which are more than 130 nowadays. However, the state still takes careful care of these research parks.

The park has large information, industrial and experimental base.  There are more than twenty multinational corporations’ branches opened here. They are attracted not only by the Chinese government’s subsidies, but the main reason is that the global giants are interested in the local market where they have an immense opportunity to promote their innovative products.

Many important discoveries were made in ZGC Science Park, like the first set of printing technique of Chinese characters, the first crystal of large integrated circuits with millions of subscribers. The first China's commercial Internet was opened here. Thanks to Zhongguancun China achieved the international communication and information standards.

Along with science parks a program of "100 Talents" has been developed: every year 100 brilliant scientists from around the world were invited to work in China, being offered very high salaries. Moreover, a large ethnic Chinese group who had worked for the Silicon Valley companies came back to PRC and led strategically important companies, became the directors of research institutes or held other important positions.

All these achievements and results prove the success of the first and the biggest ZGC Science Park in China, Beijing.

Figure 1. ZGC Science Park Map in 2006

Figure 2. ZGC Science Park Production Distribution


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