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Xinhua Headlines: How China's major agricultural province becomes innovation hub

* Anhui, a major agricultural province in China, is reinforcing its new role as a scientific and technological innovation hub.

* Over the past decade, the R&D investment intensity of Anhui has increased to 2.28 percent from 1.64 percent.

* The number of high-tech enterprises in Anhui had grown to 11,368 in 2021 from 1,742 in 2012, realizing an output value of about 1.7 trillion yuan, a significant contribution to the province's economic growth.

Photo taken on March 5, 2020 shows a worker at the manufacturing shop of LCFC (Hefei) Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province. (Xinhua/Zhou Mu)

HEFEI, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- An innovation "valley" will be constructed in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, to further draw global talent and funds in the high-tech sector, revealed a press conference in July.

This is the latest move of Anhui, a major agricultural province in China, to reinforce its new role as a developing scientific and technological innovation hub.

By 2025, the "valley" is expected to gather more than 100,000 high-skilled individuals and 1,000 high-tech enterprises, according to its development draft.

ADVANCING SCI-TECH INNOVATION

Named as the "Silicon Valley" of the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), the valley will focus on "the transformation of innovative achievements, the incubation of innovative enterprises, and the optimization of innovation mechanisms," according to Xu Zhi, deputy director of the provincial development and reform commission.

Actually, a number of world-class sci-tech breakthroughs have been achieved in Anhui over the past decade, in fields such as quantum technologies, nuclear fusion energy, artificial intelligence (AI) and more.

Photo taken on Sept. 18, 2021 shows the diagrammatic figure of the quantum computing system of "Jiuzhang" displayed during the 2021 Quantum Industry Conference in Hefei, east China's Anhui Province. (Xinhua/Du Yu)

In December 2020, researchers of USTC established the quantum computing system of "Jiuzhang" via which a maximum of 76 photons were detected. It performed a calculation in 200 seconds that would take the world's fastest supercomputer at the time 600 million years to complete.

In the field of fusion reaction, scientists in Anhui set a new world record in achieving a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds in their experiment in May 2021, a key step toward the test running of a fusion reactor.

Over the past 10 years, the R&D investment intensity of Anhui has increased to 2.28 percent from 1.64 percent. Achievements mentioned above are the epitome of Anhui's ambition of giving sci-tech innovation a more important position in its development.

Data shows that the number of high-tech enterprises in Anhui had grown to 11,368 in 2021 from 1,742 in 2012, realizing an output value of about 1.7 trillion yuan (about 256.8 billion U.S. dollars), a significant contribution to the province's economic growth.

FROM LAB TO MARKET

In a business street featuring AI technology in Hefei, people can play games with brainwaves, sip coffee served by robots and experience smart home appliances equipped with contactless aerial imaging technology.

Based on the scientific resources of Anhui Innovation Center, this street that opened earlier this year showcases the application of over 20 cutting-edge technologies.

"By converting scientific exhibits into commercial products, it can accelerate the commercialization of scientific findings and help bring scientific findings from laboratory to market," said Chen Lin, director of the service management center of Anhui Innovation Center.

"Anhui has a strong atmosphere for science and innovation. Under the support of the government, it only took a little over a year to take a product from prototype to mass production," said Han Dongcheng, chairman of Easpeed, a startup specializing in aerial imaging.

In 2016, as a graduating student of the USTC, Han established the company with his schoolmate. Now, the company has grown from less than 10 members to 200 and is valued at hundreds of million yuan.

Thanks to the rich scientific resources and favorable policies, a number of emerging high-tech enterprises and industry clusters have taken root and sprouted in Anhui, creating great value for the province.

For example, last year the overall output value of the new display and integrated circuit industries in Hefei hit over 100 billion yuan and about 40 billion yuan respectively.

Photo taken on July 28, 2022 shows a staff member at the Generation 10.5 TFT-LCD production line of the BOE Display Technology Co., Ltd. in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province. (Xinhua/Liu Junxi)

LOCAL INNOVATION, GLOBAL INFLUENCE

One cannot talk about Anhui's innovation efforts without mentioning its new energy vehicle (NEV) industry.

A decade ago, when the NEV industry was just getting off the ground, Anhui issued a series of implementation guidelines to boost its development and vowed to build it into a province with strong core competitiveness, comprehensive support and leading applications of NEVs.

"This is a difficult but hopeful journey," Li Zhen, chairman of Gotion High-Tech, an Anhui-based battery cell manufacturer, said at the opening ceremony of Gotion Germany at its Gottingen base in Germany.

As one of the most important battery suppliers in China, the company is taking an important step toward the European market, where the automotive industry has a strong foundation.

Now Anhui has gathered a number of world-renowned NEV manufacturers including JAC, Chery, NIO, Volkswagen and BYD, as well as key NEV industrial suppliers.

In 2021, 1.5 million vehicles were produced in Anhui, including 252,000 NEVs, an increase of 140 percent year on year. Meanwhile, made-in-Anhui NEVs are gaining more attention in the highly competitive global market. In the first half of 2022, Chery exported 148,000 vehicles, among which the sales of NEVs reached 112,000 units, both hitting record highs.

NIO, a Chinese NEV startup, has entered the Norwegian market as its first stop in Europe and will start to provide services in the markets of Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark this year.

Meanwhile, global automobile giants also see Anhui as a new starting point for their digital and electric transformations. Volkswagen Anhui is Volkswagen's first joint venture in China that focuses on NEVs.

Photo taken on June 7, 2022 shows harvested wheat at a crop planting cooperative in Woyang County of Bozhou City, east China's Anhui Province. (Xinhua/Zhang Duan)

In 2021, Anhui saw its export structure further optimized, with the exports of mechanical and electrical products reaching 39.1 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 43.9 percent year on year, while the exports of high-tech products reached 18.8 billion U.S. dollars, up 47.3 percent year on year.

While spending heavily on scientific and technological innovation, Anhui continues to maintain its traditional role as a major agricultural province. In 2021, the province's grain output logged a new record, reaching 40.9 billion kg, ranking fourth in China.

(Video Reporters: Qu Yan, Bai Bin, Jin Jian; Video Editors: Zheng Xin, Luo Hui)