Next PostNPC & CPPCC Sessions | WANG Jian: Making Great Contributions to S&T Innovations and Doing Research at ZJ Lab
The Second Session of the 13th Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) opened on the morning of January 22, 2024.
During the meeting, YUAN Jixin, Vice President of Zhejiang Lab (ZJ Lab), accepted an exclusive interview with the 21st Century Business Herald, where he shared his thoughts and suggestions on the development of Zhejiang's scientific and technological (S&T) innovation capacity and how AI empowers new high-quality productive forces.
Proposal: Concerns Regarding Compute and Talents
21st Century Business Herald: As a member of Zhejiang Provincial CPPCC, what proposals did you make at the Two Sessions?
YUAN Jixin: There are two issues that I am concerned about at the Two Sessions: promoting the layout and building of computing power infrastructure and promoting the integrated development of education, science and technology, and human resources driven by high-level innovation platforms.
At present, computing power (or compute) is becoming a new input enhancing productivity in the era of the digital economy. One point of growth in the computing index translates to a 3.3‰ rise in the size of the digital economy and a 1.8‰ growth in GDP.
In order to leverage the driving role of computing power in the digital economy, it is particularly important to develop and build computing power infrastructure with high quality.
In fact, there is no dearth of general-purpose computing power in Zhejiang Province. What is lacking is the intelligent computing power that can respond to needs from the explosion of artificial intelligence such as foundation models.
Since the "digital economy" is a golden business card for Zhejiang Province, the development of computing power infrastructure is taken as the most basic guarantee for establishing new advantages in modern industrial systems in a new round of industrial revolution.
So I propose: promoting the layout and development of computing power infrastructure to build Zhejiang into a province with the lowest total compute costs, and leveraging the driving role of integrated computing power in the digital economy.
At first, computing power infrastructure should be developed in advance appropriately in three dimensions - quantity (quantity of computing power), quality (computing power technology) and speed (development speed), so as to respond to the upcoming explosion in demands for computing power. Moreover, it is necessary to explore the coordinated development of computing power, storage capacity, network bandwidth and electric power, and carry out unified planning and development based on province-city synergies to integrate computing resources with cloud services.
Another proposal is about human resources development.
At present, ZJ Lab is actively exploring the three-in-one integration of "education, science and technology, and human resources" by accelerating education-S&T-HR integration driven by high-level innovation platforms.
However, there are some problems in practice, such as the inadequate release of the strategic value of high-level innovation platforms, the ineffective attraction, development, retention and utilization of high-level talents, and the poor integration of education, science and technology, and human resources.
In this case, my advice is to build core competencies of a high-level innovation platform, a regional talent attraction and cultivation community that features flexible agglomeration and mobility, and an open science ecosystem that features coordinated planning and synergistic interaction.
21st Century Business Herald: What is the education-S&T-HR integration model driven by high-level innovation platforms?
YUAN Jixin: It is a way that Zhejiang explores building "three-in-one" coordinated development of education, science and technology, and human resources. Based on its mission, objectives and merits, ZJ Lab has made pioneering explorations on the basis of "deep integration of education, science and technology, and human resources" and gained valuable experience.
This is summed up in several key words: joint platform creation, actual combat-oriented talent training, and industry-university collaboration.
Focusing on intelligent computing, we have built a series of research platforms such as new computing systems and platforms, and attracted researchers from innovation institutions at home and abroad to visit ZJ Lab for the exchange of ideas and joint research, so as to enable co-creation and applications of S&T achievements via these platforms.
Meanwhile, we cultivate high-quality talents with innovative spirit and practical ability together with high-level universities and research institutes such as Zhejiang University and Hangzhou Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and improve our actual combat-oriented talent training system. At present, ZJ Lab has trained 104 doctoral fellows in cooperation with Zhejiang University, and recruited 116 master fellows and 12 doctoral fellows in cooperation with Hangzhou Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In terms of industry-university collaboration, we attract entrepreneurs and scientists to seek out innovations for shorter incubation and transformation periods of innovative achievements through collaboration with universities' fundamental explorations and research in frontier fields and innovation-based enterprises' ability to identify real problems, thus realizing the organic combination of innovation resources.
S&T Achievement Transformation and Innovation
21st Century Business Herald: How about Zhejiang's strength in the research environment and S&T innovation? What progress has been made?
YUAN Jixin: In recent years, Zhejiang has made rapid progress in S&T innovations. According to the recently released China Regional Innovation Capacity Evaluation Report 2023, Zhejiang Province has ranked fourth in China by regional innovation capacity for two consecutive years. The rankings of Zhejiang Province are roughly the same in terms of innovation capacity and economic aggregate index.
This is inseparable from Zhejiang's great efforts in recent years to invest in research, enhance its S&T innovation capacity, build high-level innovation platforms, introduce high-level talents, and encourage enterprises to make innovations.
It is also inseparable from Zhejiang's open S&T innovation environment. In recent years, a first-class business environment has been built up across the province through digital reform, which has given scientific research institutions and personnel more autonomy, and further activated innovation vitality. The operation mechanism of mixed-ownership public institutions like ZJ Lab results from making flexible institutional innovations and stimulating new growth drivers.
21st Century Business Herald: What are the difficulties of bridging the "valley of death" between basic R&D and commercialization? How does ZJ Lab promote the transformation of S&T achievements?
YUAN Jixin: The challenge here is that scientific research institutions are easily out of touch with the market during project implementation, which exposes enterprises as the subject of innovation to high investment and high risks.
So how to pull up the "valley of death" curve? To do so, universities and research institutions should help enterprises generate innovations.
In the pursuit of cutting-edge innovation, we should go one step further and make a prototype or a system platform that can be directly used, rather than stopping at the conceptualization stage represented by drawings. Meanwhile, we should get enterprises involved early in research projects. The chain can be unblocked as we go the extra mile at the industrial level and enterprises go the extra mile at the research level.
More importantly, laboratories can transform S&T achievements in an organized manner.
At present, the problem for universities and research institutions is that they are scattered, making it harder to create synergy. However, as the organized transformation of S&T achievements is enabled through platforms, laboratories' role as computing platforms in fields such as life sciences, new materials and digital manufacturing are brought into full play, which can improve innovation efficiency and reduce risks of industrial enterprises, and also make platform-based projects more marketable, achieving higher transformation efficiency.
In addition, through collaborated transformation, partnerships with innovation platforms such as characteristic towns and high-tech parks have been strengthened, and a group of innovation-based enterprises has been attracted and brought together to carry out collaborative innovation and technology transfer.
There's also another key point: motivating researchers to establish startups. We will evaluate internal research teams, support promising and well-mixed teams, and encourage and support researchers' innovative startups based on their achievements.
Furthermore, the ZJ Lab Sci-Tech Achievement Transformation Fund with an initial investment of 500 million yuan was established jointly with several investors, and a number of achievements in intelligent equipment, intelligent transportation and intelligent healthcare are being transformed, further deepening the integration of innovation, industrial, capital and talent chains.
A Driving Force for New High-quality Productive Forces
21st Century Business Herald: What are the reforms and innovations in promoting the efficient integration of Zhejiang's "315" S&T innovation system and "415X" advanced manufacturing clusters and empowering new high-quality productive forces?
YUAN Jixin: In response to the development of "415X" advanced manufacturing clusters and the intelligentization of advanced manufacturing industries, ZJ Lab focuses on important fields of Industrial Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), manufacturing data governance, intelligent process control and intelligent scheduling decision by leveraging its systematic advantages in intelligent computing, and lays out key tasks for AIoT and digital manufacturing to make high-end manufacturing more eco-friendly and more intelligent.
Last year, our space computing team successfully developed two homemade autonomous onboard intelligent computers, which hold a leading position in China in terms of key technical indicators such as computing power and performance per watt. The ultimate goal of the team is to build cloud computing power infrastructure in the sky to form a space computing network, and use several-fold or even hundredfold computing power to serve multiple scenarios such as natural disaster monitoring, environmental and ecological monitoring, urbanization, intelligent transportation, intelligent agriculture with on-orbit real-time processing functions on satellites equipped with intelligent computers.
Therefore, as for fostering industries of the future, the intelligent computing software and hardware, systems and platform facilities that we have built up for research purposes will boost the development of Zhejiang's intelligent computing, satellite and aviation industries, becoming a force that drives the formation of new high-quality productive forces.
21st Century Business Herald: Last year, the research on the M87 black hole, a joint research achievement of ZJ Lab, was included in CCTV's International Top 10 Sci-tech News of 2023. What are your plans for the integration of intelligent computing and astronomy in the future?
YUAN Jixin: As the fourth domain of human activities, space is considered as an important arena to enhance the country's comprehensive national strength, serve the national economy and people's livelihood, and uplift its international influence.
At present, S&T innovation has ushered in a data-driven era, with astronomy standing out as one of the research fields that feature the closest combination of data science and domain-specific science. Next, we will develop and establish a cutting-edge data computing platform that bolsters astronomical research, progress fundamental research and explore frontiers in astronomy, form an open scientific research ecosystem in astronomy, reinforce and spearhead the innovation-driven development and paradigm shift in astronomical research, and make innovations to provide support for humans to explore the mysteries of space.
Source: 21st Century Business Herald