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Three Decades Effort in Promoting Innovation
--NSFC Sees Its 30thAnniversary

The return of spring breath arouses the awareness of another round of exuberant vitality. A spring day thirty years ago, February 14, 1986 is a memorable day in the history of China’s Science and Technology Development just because of the State Council’s approval on the establishment of National Natural Science Foundation of China, with Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s great concern and total support. Since then NSFC embarks on the exploration of the National Science Fund system by adopting international successful experience. Today NSFC is embracing its prime time after an adventure of three decades. Throughout the past thirty years, National Science Fund has become the main source to support China’s basic research. This ice-breaking system reform has provided areliably advanced management system for the research community.

Over the past three decades, NSFC has fostered talents growth with full strength. With a view to different needs for talent training in different phases, NSFC deploys a holistic format which combines training of extraordinary talents with building of creative teams, and strikes a balance between international and domestic talents. A talents funding umbrella has been set up including Young Scientists Fund, Excellent Young Scientists Fund and Distinguished Young Scholars Fund. The first group of young awardees such as Zheng Nanning and Tian Zhongqun has now become well-known scholars and pioneers in various areas. The National Science Fund System has become a corner stone which attracted and supported basic research talents all over the nation.

The past three decades witnessed tremendous research achievements with the support of the National Science Fund. Having been committed to advancing scientific frontiers and meeting national strategic demands, NSFC has consistently strived for creating innovation-friendly environment, encouraging free exploration, and for constant improvement on funding instruments including general programs, key programs, major programs and major research plans, so as toinspire scientists to pursue the heights of science regardless of obstacles and difficulties.Constant endeavoring gets reward. The Champion of 2015 National Award for Natural Sciences went to the research on Multi Photon Entangle and Interference Metrics which has received 32 awards from NSFC. Professor Wang Yifang, eight-time National Science Fund awardee, won the Fundamental Physics Breakthrough Prize which was called the First Biggest Prize by the scientific community. Prof. Xie Yi, member of CAS and winner of For Women in Science Awards which is also known as the Nobel Prize for Women, had received eleven national science grants before.

Over the past three decades, NSFC opened a group of cross-agency, regional and international joint funds. In order to strengthen the innovation synergy, NSFC set up joint funds with agencies of the State Council, local governments and industries. In this way has NSFC integrated and redirected various resourcesinto basic research, promoted the cooperation between government agencies and universities, industries and research institutes, and upgraded the independent innovation capability of relevant sectors, industries and regions. With global vision, NSFC has continued to open wider to the outside world. By the end of 2015, NSFC has signed cooperation agreements or MoU with 85 foreign counterparts or science funding agencies from 40 countries and regions. Substantial progress in international research collaboration has made the voice of Chinese researchers spread all over the international S&T arena.

Over the past three decades, NSFC has dedicated itself to system reforms and funding mechanism improvement. In accordance with the Regulation on National Natural Science Fund, NSFC sticks to the review principle of relying on experts, promoting democracy, funding excellence, and advocating fairness and justness. A series of regulation structures on review process, research conduct supervision, use of expenses and credit management have been set up to ensure the openness, fairness and justice in funding performance. It has become a distinct characteristic that the national science fund is managed in a scientific, democratic, innovative and transparent way. According to the 2011 International Evaluation Report of Funding Performance, although influenced by DFG and NSF in its early days, NSFC is no simple replication of the two agencies, but rather a reputable national foundation which has adjusted to China’s national scenarios.

What NSFC has achieved is by no means from its own exploration and efforts. It is surely true that the guidance of CPC and central government is the guarantee for its sound development; the support of scientists is the pillar for its sustainable growth; and the devotion and diligence of research institutions provides powerful support for its continuing expansion.

One should always keep in mind his goal and ambition even in his maturity. This principle also applies to NSFC.

New age has ushered in new requirements. Currently, China’s basic research level has been on steady rise, reaching a critical turning period from quantitative to qualitative change, from discrete breakthroughs to overall upgrading. In the runoff stage of building moderately prosperous society and innovation-driven nation, NSFC will focus on forward-looking deployment, scientific breakthroughs and precise management guided by the development concept featuring innovation, coordination, environmental protection, openness and inclusiveness. NSFC will spare no effort to create innovation-based environment, intensify knowledge innovation, boost future growth and expand new capacity in new normal stage. NSFC will further stress on fundamentals, frontiers and talents to make better use of the funds, thus achieving the strategic goal of keeping up with scientifically advanced countries in the input, output and translation of basic research. NSFC will strive to build a science funding agency with impartial evaluation, rewarding performance, global perspective, efficient management, tremendous resources and broad funding spectrum. By undertaking the task of implementing the innovation-driven strategy, promoting basic research and improving China’s original innovation capability, NSFC will compose a new chapter for the fulfillment of Chinese Dream.

Copyright 2007 Bureau of International Cooperation, NSFC