BEIJING, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- In 2020, lunar samples were brought back to Earth by the Chang'e-5, the manned submersible Fendouzhe dived to a depth of 10,909 meters, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System was officially commissioned, and a quantum computational advantage was achieved by computer prototype Jiuzhang.
2020 has been an unprecedented and uncertain year, yet Chinese researchers, engineers and support staff have maintained their commitment to advancing research and innovation.
China will pursue innovation-driven development and shape new development advantages, according to the full text of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee's development proposals made public in late October.
The country will uphold the central role of innovation in its modernization drive and take self-reliance in science and technology as the strategic underpinning for national development.
According to Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang, research is key to a country's scientific and technological innovation ability, and China will give higher priority to basic research and its applications.
China has issued a plan to establish 13 national applied mathematics centers in Beijing, Shanghai and other regions. Several basic research projects have been deployed in key areas such as quantum science, stem cells, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology.
"It's hard to say what is good about a math research institution," said Professor Guan Qi'an of the School of Mathematical Sciences at Peking University. "I just feel comfortable here, and I don't get distracted or disturbed."
Guan is talking about the Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research (BICMR), which spans seven quadrangle courtyard buildings on the Peking University campus.
Whiteboards and blackboards line the walls of every courtyard, awaiting eureka moments.
Administrative staff are carefully selected for the center. One of their duties is to help mathematicians avoid the distraction of paperwork and chores, such as renting apartments or arranging meetings and seminars.
Government-sponsored BICMR is seen as a tranquil haven for mathematicians to roam, think and look for the beauty in numbers.
The researchers at BICMR agree that the government is determined to strengthen China through science and technology, and that supportive policies will continue for years.
Under the CPC Central Committee's development proposals, China will enhance the innovation capacity of enterprises and strengthen the dominant role of enterprises in innovation.
Chinese companies are keen to contribute to innovation, rating innovation as more significant than other measures of success.
The COVID-19 outbreak catapulted sci-tech companies to the frontline of epidemic control.
In late January, Zhongguancun Science City in Beijing called on tech firms and research groups in Haidian District to develop artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to improve the accuracy and efficiency of temperature screening in busy pedestrian areas.
Within 10 days, AI fever screening systems were deployed in some busy pedestrian areas in Beijing to provide contactless and efficient temperature inspection for COVID-19 control during the post-holiday travel peak.
Megvii, the developer of the fever-screening system and one of China's major AI unicorns, in March open-sourced the system's deep-learning framework to the world.
With the help of a pre-built and optimized framework, engineers can focus on the high-level structures of their models, without getting into the details of underlying algorithms.
Tang Wenbin, Megvii co-founder and chief technology officer, said that digital transformation is expected to boost innovation and underpin economic and social development.
Also in March, Huawei announced the open-sourcing of its AI framework MindSpore.
Gao Wen, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that as the source codes are freely available and can be modified and developed in new directions, more opportunities and products are expected to emerge from an open AI ecosystem.
The CPC Central Committee's development proposals noted that China will stimulate innovative talent and make institutional improvements in terms of scientific innovation.
In the integrated circuit (IC) industry, a lack of chip experts is seen as the key bottleneck restricting development. China has been making efforts to source and train skilled computer chip professionals so that the country can achieve self-reliance in the field.
In late July, the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council declared integrated circuitry to be a first-division academic discipline, laying the groundwork for the inauguration of China's first chip university.
In October, Nanjing Integrated Circuit University was inaugurated in the Jiangbei New Area of Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province. It is the first university in China to focus on the IC industry and aims to train industry professionals.
In response to the industry talent gap, the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences also launched a program to train undergraduates to design processor chips with solid theoretical understanding and practical experience.
The university hopes to train more experts in chip design by formulating challenging and practical courses, and by shortening the process from training to working on the frontlines of research and the industry.
Liu Chi is vice dean of the School of Computer Science and Technology at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He said in an interview that China is "spending significant efforts and a lot of money to support semiconductor research." Enditem