By Danielle T. Brink, Foley & Lardner LLP
This article is part of our Fall 2010 edition of Legal News: China Quarterly Newsletter, Eye on China.
The agency system is the key to China effectively enabling technology transfer. Unlike marketing-oriented agencies in the United States, the technology transfer infrastructure in China features a public-institute-oriented agency system, which includes government agencies, academic institutions, R&D centers, university-based research centers, national scientific and industrial parks, and the China Technology Transfer Exchange.
Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). MOST is responsible for the National Basic Research Program, the National High-Tech Research &Development (R&D) Program, and the Science &Technology (S&T) Enabling Program as well as compiling and implementing plans for national laboratories, bases for innovation, and national S&T programs. Some of the affiliated agencies include the National Research Center for Science and Technology for Development, the National Science and Technology Infrastructure Center, and Torch High Tech Industrial Development Center (also known as the China Technology Market Management and Promotion Center).
Chinese National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). NDRC participates in the formation of development policies for science and technology. One the most important responsibilities of the NDRC is developing the engineering consulting industry. In addition, the NDRC takes the lead with related ministries in attending to international negotiations regarding climate change. Further, the NDRC is responsible for management of the State Grain Administration and the National Energy Administration.
National Engineering Research Centers (NERCs). NERCs are sponsored by MOST. Currently, there are 141 NERCs across more than 20 provinces, studying in the fields of agriculture, energy, manufacturing, information and telecommunication, biotechnology, materials, construction and environmental protection, resource development and application, and health care, among others. The mission of the NERCs is to cultivate first-class talent, build state-of-the-art engineering laboratories, and shape technology innovation and industrial bases for scientific R&D and technology transfer.
ChinaAssociation for Science and Technology (CAST). CAST is the largest national non-governmental organization of scientific and technological professions in China, linking Chinese science and technology communities with the Chinese government. It connects with millions of Chinese scientists, engineers, and other professionals in the fields of science and technology through local chapters throughout China.
Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). CAS comprises China’s premier and most respected academic institution and national comprehensive R&D centers operating in the areas of natural sciences, high-tech innovation, and technological consulting. CAS directly oversees more than 113 institutions, which include 92 research institutes, more than 100 national key laboratories and national engineering research centers, and about 1,000 field stations throughout the country. There are 26 legal entities affiliated with CAS, and 21 CAS investment holding enterprises.
National Natural Science Foundation of China(NSFC). NSFC plays a key role in promoting China's integral basic research strength. Some of its functions including making policies and plans for the national development of science and technology, distributing the Guide to Programs for basic and applied base research, receiving research proposals from universities and/or institutions all over the country, persistently supporting innovative research, and promoting other national scientific and technological programs.
Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs). The collaborative relationship between universities and industry has been given high priority and support as it functions to enhance the effectiveness of the national innovation system. Chinese universities undertake a wide spectrum of profitable and industrial research projects, emulating the technology licensing offices (TLOs) at U.S. universities. Some TTOs were established either within or outside of the universities to handle all issues relating to IP management and transferring technology developed in their laboratories. The functions of the TTOs include technology transfers, licensing, contractual research, consultancy and enterprise incubation, marketing technologies, identifying companies to sponsor university projects, evaluating the value of the technology to be transferred, and enhancing bargaining power by providing appropriate professional advice. In addition to TTOs, university science parks and incubators also play an important role in transferring technologies from universities to industry. A remarkable proportion of funding of scientific research in Chinese universities comes from private companies.
Tsinghua University. One of China’s top universities (often referred to as "China's MIT"), Tsinghua offers accelerated technology transfer opportunities by steadily reinforcing scientific cooperation with industry and regional communities.
- Scientific Research. At present, Tsinghua has a number of high-level scientific bases, including one national laboratory, 11 state key laboratories, 14 key laboratories of the Ministry of Education (MOE), five national engineering research centers, one MOE research center, one MOE engineering research center, and six joint research centers linked to the MOE network. These research bases have enormous capabilities for basic research, applied research, and technology transfer. For example, Information Science and Technology is one in the first group of five national laboratories authorized on November 25, 2003 by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
- Tsinghua University — Industry Cooperation Committee. The committee has signed cooperative contracts with more than 180 domestic and international companies since its establishment in 1995. The average number of cooperative contracts between the university and industry is about 900 per year, with total value of 400 million RMB. The university has established four research institutes.
- Tsinghua Science Park. As the only Class A university science park in China, Tsinghua Science Park is positioned to be a base for incubating startups, fostering innovation, and commercializing intellectual property from scientific research. It has made outstanding contributions to the development of the regional science and technology economy. In addition, it has promoted the university's research work and technology transfer. With five sub-parks in China, Tsinghua Science Park is becoming a world-class university science park.
- Tsinghua Holdings. The university is the sole investor for this company, which also is a major shareholder for seven publicly listed companies. Its mission includes scientific and technological achievement transformation, the development of high-tech enterprises, investment management, assets reconstruction and capital operation, and technology and information consultation.
National High-Tech and Technology Industry Development Zones
China has built thousands of new and high-tech development zones. Establishing export bases for new and high-tech products in selected high-tech industrial development zones is an important part of the government's plan for developing trade through science and technology.
ChinaTechnology Exchange (CTEX). The Chinese government realizes that an effective method to facilitate the flow of technology transfer and efficiency of agencies responsible for such transfer is to promote the combination of technology and capital. Therefore, CTEX was established upon the joint approval by Beijing Municipal Government, MOST, and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) under the approval of the State Council in 2009. CTEX positions itself as a comprehensive service forum to facilitate the transformation of scientific products to industrialization. CTEX’s functions include technology transfer services, technology licensing, funding or share control for technology, joint development, and technology mergers and acquisitions.