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Saturday, January 9, 2016, 11:43

Awards honor scientists' contributions

By CHENG YINGQI/Xinhua

Awards honor scientists' contributions
Jan-Christer Janson (front left), professor of technical biochemistry at Uppsala University of Sweden, and Okimura Kazuki, head of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, together with other scientists, receive the 20, 15 state science and technology awards at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan 8, 2016. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang also attended. (ZHOU WEIHAI/CHINA DAILY)

The 2015 state science and technology awards honoring the contributions of 295 research projects and seven foreign experts were bestowed at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, but the highest award remained vacant.

The prize winners were presented with certificates by Chinese President Xi Jinping at an annual ceremony held to recognize distinguished scientists and research achievements.

Other state leaders, including Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, also presented awards.

When addressing the ceremony, Premier Li stressed that innovation should be placed at the very core of the overall national development to maintain medium to high-speed economic growth and march towards medium to high-level development.

Li vowed to nurture new drivers of economic growth while upgrading traditional industries.

"We must step up implementation of the innovation-driven development strategy," Li said.

The state science and technology awards comprise five award categories, of which the Preeminent Science and Technology Award is the highest.

The top prize has previously been awarded to 25 scientists, including China's "father of hybrid rice" Yuan Longping, since it was established in 2000. There were one or two winners each year except 2004, the first time there was no recipient.

"We can only express regret over the vacancy this year," an unidentified official from the National Office for Science and Technology Awards, which is in charge of collecting nominations and organizing the voting, was quoted by People's Daily as saying.

The official said that the country's first Nobel laureate in medicine, Tu Youyou, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine in October, was not nominated for this year's prize. The nominations, submitted by more than 130 government agencies, research institutes and individual scientists, were made from early November to mid-December 2014.

Awards honor scientists' contributions
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders present awards to winners at China's State Science and Technology Awards ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Jan 8, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)

In other award categories, this year saw a trend in which the average age of principal winners of the State Natural Sciences Award was just 47.6.

Pan Jianwei, 45, a quantum scientist at the University of Science and Technology of China, won the top prize in the State Natural Sciences Award category.

The quantum communications equipment developed by Pan's team was applied to ensure communication security in the 18th Party Congress in 2012 and at the parade in September to mark the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Some large-scale scientific projects, such as the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, have won awards as well. But experts said it becomes increasingly difficult to give the credit to some individuals, since China is initiating more mega-projects.

Jiang Fengyi, top winner of the State Technology Invention Award, said: "More than 60 researchers had contributed to the program. But according to the restricted number, we can only have six apply for the award."

Chen Yanjing, a professor of geology at Peking University who won the National Award for Technological Invention, said "the prize should recognize innovative ideas instead of researchers' specific work".

Awards honor scientists' contributions
Top leaders Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Gaoli meet with representatives of awards winners before China's State Science and Technology Awards ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Jan 8, 2016. (Photo/Xinhua)

During the ceremony, Premier Li highlighted the need to make good use of the market to reduce overcapacity and connect traditional industries with the Internet.

The premier underscored measures to further liberate scientific talents, reform the income distribution system to spur innovative spirit and give more power to higher learning institutions on talent cultivation.

Li also vowed to tap into social forces such as enterprise and the public to encourage innovation. "Limitless wisdom resides in the 1.3 billion Chinese people; more than 100 million of them have higher education, which is our greatest innovative resource and advantage," said Li.

He mentioned new ideas like crowd sourcing and crowd funding in the Internet age to promote innovation, asking governments at all levels to streamline administration, cut red tape and help people raise money for innovative projects.

Li noted that China must embrace the outside world to make the best use of resources both home and abroad, enhance international cooperation and take the lead to initiate major scientific research projects.

China needs to revolve around the construction of the "One Belt and One Road" initiative to help more Chinese technologies and products go global, and make China a world innovation hub, said Li.

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