An employee works on the production line of graphene products at a manufacturer in Changzhou, Jiangsu province. (LI BO/XINHUA)
Emphasis on R&D, mass production, breakthroughs for strategic advantage
China aims to accelerate the industrialization of new materials like superconducting materials, graphene and liquid metal that are now considered critical to the development of high-tech industries, the country's top industry regulator said.
Industrialization in this context is expected to attract more resources to the research and development of these strategic materials. It will also pave the way for breakthroughs in their applications in sectors of utmost importance like nuclear engineering and aerospace, experts said.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission jointly released a list of important new materials whose industrialization will be advanced.
These materials represent the direction of the development of the new materials industry, which is an important entry point for building new growth engines, the ministry and the commission said.
They also called for their subordinate bodies to encourage enterprises to advance the industrialization of graphene in sectors like rail traffic, aerospace equipment, new energy and new-generation information technologies.
Also, more efforts are needed to promote the industrialization of superconducting materials in sectors with growth potential like nuclear engineering, electronic equipment and new energy vehicles or NEVs.
The thrust on new materials is part of China's efforts to build a modern industrial system on the back of innovation — and it comes amid external uncertainties.
China's top leadership has attached high importance to manufacturing. For its part, the central government has unveiled a string of policies for industrial upgrades.
In a report delivered to the fifth session of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on Monday, Zheng Shanjie, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said more efforts will be made to promote the building of a modern industrial system.
MIIT said in a guideline on Tuesday that China aims to establish an advanced manufacturing technology innovation system by 2027.
Liu Zhibo, a Nankai University professor engaged in the R&D of graphene for applications in photoelectric devices, said it is vitally important to devote more resources to pioneering the industrialization of various new materials.
"Both foreign and domestic experts and scholars have been working on graphene for a long time. Once a breakthrough is achieved in a certain aspect, the attendant benefits would be huge — and we need to seize such an opportunity."
According to Liu, there are many prototypes of photoelectric devices that use graphene in laboratories around the world. Such devices produce significant improvement in their performance.
"But, at present, it's still hard to mass-produce such devices because it's still hard to industrialize the production of graphene while ensuring its quality."
On Monday, Jin Zhuanglong, minister of industry and information technology, held a meeting with representatives of manufacturing companies wherein he said the ministry will make good use of policy tools to help enterprises enter emerging pillar industries.
His ministry will also encourage and guide manufacturers to prepare for technology, talent and other elements so as to explore frontier technologies better, Jin said.
Leading enterprises, he said, should give full play to their stature and help formulate industry rules and build systems for self-regulation.
Representatives who attended the meeting were mostly from enterprises in fields like new materials, NEVs, lithium batteries, photovoltaics, biopharmaceuticals and intelligent manufacturing.
To boost growth of the manufacturing sector, more efforts are needed to maintain policy support, which will help restore the confidence of small and medium-sized enterprises, and improve market expectations, said Ye Yindan, a researcher at the BOC Research Institute.