An evolving ancient capital pursues inclusiveness in technological advancement

Fu Erjiang used to call Melbourne home. After earning his Ph.D. in GPS meteorology from RMIT University in the Australian metropolis in 2011, Fu began his career in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, also located in city. More importantly, Melbourne is well-known as an education hub and one of the world’s most livable cities.

Despite the many draws of Melbourne, Fu considered the move to Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province in east China, in 2020 to be a positive decision. “It (Nanjing) has a long history, is livable and, much like Melbourne, is a city of education,” he explained.

Fu is now director of Nanjing Overseas Collaborative Innovation Center (the Center). The organization, established in 2019, serves as a platform for facilitating the introduction of professionals and projects between Melbourne and Nanjing and organizing conferences that convene government officials and corporate leaders to foster knowledge sharing.

Through the Center, Fu, an outstanding data architect with expertise in satellite data analysis and observation and having contributed to several large-scale digital transformation projects in governmental organizations, has participated in creating the Bei-Stars Geospatial Innovations Institute in Pukou Hi-Tech Zone, Pukou District, Nanjing. The institute is the only national-level data processing center in Jiangsu for China’s homegrown BeiDou navigation satellite system.

Led by a dozen of overseas scientists introduced by the Center, the institute has become a prime example of successful international collaboration and knowledge sharing in Nanjing.

Seeking new blood

From 2019 to 2022, the Center had helped introduce 25 top-notch sci-tech professionals from Australia to Nanjing and implement 35 projects in the city, covering areas of next-generation information technology, artificial intelligence, industrial Internet, biomedicine and more.

“We also have an office in Melbourne, where we provide professional services to Australian companies. Companies should undertake careful consideration before deciding to start a business in China. We only invite these companies after our evaluation and training indicate they are well-prepared to come. We hope to guarantee their survival and long-term development in China,” Fu explained during a roundtable discussion with international participants of a research trip in Nanjing on October 20. The trip was organized by the Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Science and Technology and Foreign Talent Research Center.

“Our cooperation has received the support of the Melbourne Government, even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fu added. Nanjing has had a strategic partnership with Melbourne since 2002.

“The Pukou District Bureau of Science and Technology has a role in providing policy support. When it comes to international cooperation projects, once they are initiated and approved, the district will offer financial support according to related policies,” Huang Xuejun, Deputy Director of the Pukou District Bureau of Science and Technology, said during the discussion. “We have approximately $2.73 million allocated for policy funding from 2021 to 2023. This figure does not encompass additional funding received from provincial or municipal levels.”

After completing the research trip, Asad Khalil, a Syrian professor of law at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing Municipality, said he wants to settle in Nanjing permanently. “One of the most impressive aspects of my visit was witnessing the collaborative spirit between international and Chinese talents. Nanjing has become a gathering place for experts and innovators from all over the world, and the exchange of ideas and expertise that occurs within Nanjing is a shining example of global cooperation.”

Talent boosting innovation

The synergy between the Center and the Pukou Bureau of Science and Technology in attracting international sci-tech professionals exemplifies the broader dynamism of Nanjing’s talent acquisition efforts.

“In the years since I arrived in Nanjing, my perspective on this city has transformed. It has evolved into one of the most dynamic regions in China, and its environment for international talent serves as a global model,” Adrien Oger Peulvast, founder of Nanjing SilkRail Rail Transit Technology Co. Ltd., said during a themed salon with foreign experts on October 19. The event was held to explore pathways of open innovation and cooperation for Nanjing in the new era.

“Nanjing is so attractive, not just for the funding, but also for its people’s innovative mindset and the sound environment for setting up your life and having a family,” Peulvast added.

Nanjing is home to over 110 of the world’s top 500 enterprises and more than 5,000 foreign-invested enterprises. It also has 51 higher education institutions, establishing itself as a vital center for scientific research and education, where innovation and creative thinking thrive.

“In recent years, Nanjing has been improving its policy framework for innovation, and integrating into the global innovation network. It has been embracing top talents from all over the world by establishing collaborative innovation centers and other platforms,” Tang Fuqiang, Director of the Foreign Talent Research Center of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said.

The Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute (JITRI), founded in 2013, positions itself at the nexus of scientific research and technological transformation. It focuses on creating new channels for transforming scientific and technological advancements into tangible products and putting them into commercial use. It has empowered 75 research institutes in biomedical, energy and environmental protection and other sectors, as well as 300-plus innovation centers. Now, the JITRI has partnered with global leading institutes and universities, such as Harvard and Oxford universities, resulting in fruitful outcomes.

International participants of a research trip visit the Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on October 19 (COURTESY PHOTO)

“I believe that cultivating open innovation in an ecosystem of global competitiveness in the context of international cooperation is essential for great nations to thrive in the new era,” Khalil said after visiting the JITRI.

Yang Meijia, chief scientific officer of the Jiangsu Cell Tech Medical Research Institute, shared his suggestions on how the city can make further improvements, including ensuring the thorough implementation of well-conceived regulations and the elimination of information gaps.

Peulvast agreed, saying he found it challenging to provide recommendations for boosting innovation in Nanjing because it already has a well-established system in place.

“I would suggest that we focus on promoting innovation competitions, student exchanges and collaborations between universities. This doesn’t need to be limited to technological innovation; it can also encompass events related to sports and other activities,” he said. “For instance, hosting international events that bring together people from all over the world to share ideas could be a great approach. This not only allows people to explore the city but also helps them discover that Nanjing is a fantastic place to live, work and, most importantly, innovate.” –The Daily Mail-Beijing Review news exchange item