Project hopes to pen new story on innovation

08:44, March 18, 2011      

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Since there's little chance of making a better mousetrap, the government of China is putting its research dollars into improving another invention: the ballpoint pen.

China is set to launch a three-year project to develop its own technologies for making ballpoint pens, the Ministry of Science and Technology said.

The country's manufacturers currently rely heavily on foreign technology for their production.

With a fund of 60 million yuan ($9.1 million), the project will run from June 2011 to June 2014, a statement from the ministry said.

The project to make ballpoint pens a home-grown product will mostly focus on developing core production techniques, including producing inks, pen points and mechanisms to combine the two.

"Using advanced technologies to renovate and upgrade traditional industries is an important part of China building an innovative country," said Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang.

The project was initiated in response to calls in recent years for upgrades in the ability to make ballpoint pens.

Wan said that a proposal submitted during the recently concluded annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference "gave him quite a shake-up".

According to the proposal, China manufactures 38 billion ballpoint pens every year, but 90 percent of the pen points are imported from overseas and 80 percent of the ink is imported or produced by imported equipment. Manufacturers only earn 0.1 yuan from making a ballpoint pen.

"It doesn't mean we should not use overseas technologies," said Wan. "But Chinese companies must enhance their position in the world's industry chain to facilitate a more reasonable distribution of profits."

Who's got talent?

The central government has launched an ambitious program to lure 2,000 talented young people from overseas over five years to boost the country's research and technological capabilities.

The Young Thousand Talents Program, which takes effect in 2011, aims to lure skilled overseas Chinese or foreign workers to the country's universities and research institutions, a statement on the central government's website said.

The program will help the country rapidly advance its scientific and technological capabilities and industries over the next decade, it said.

Applicants should come from the natural sciences and engineering fields, have a PhD from a prestigious overseas university and at least three years of research experience. They should be younger than 40, the statement said.

Participants should also take full-time jobs in the Chinese universities or research institutes, the statement added.

They will enjoy a 500,000-yuan living subsidy and a research fund of between 1 million yuan and 3 million yuan, it said.

The program is the latest government effort to attract leading overseas scientists and researchers who are working at the world's best institutions or enterprises since it started the Young Thousand Talents Program in 2008. A total of 825 people have already signed up.

The National Outline for Medium- and Long-Term Talent Development (2010-2020) released in June said China plans to increase its talent pool from 114 million to 180 million by 2020, when it will spend 15 percent of its GDP on human resources.

Source: China Daily
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