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Private sector fueling new breakthroughs

By Liu Mingtai ( China Daily )

Private companies in Jilin province have set their sights on innovation as a key to improving core competitiveness.

Pointing at rows of workover rigs and oil production trucks, Han Yiquan, the board chairman of Tonghua Petrochemical Machinery Manufacture Co Ltd, noted the company's products are now on sale in 17 countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, Russia, South America, the Middle East and South Asia.

The company is among the top 50 Chinese petrochemical machine and equipment makers. It has now developed more than 100 new products and applied for 32 patents.

It is not the only Jilin-headquartered company to venture into foreign markets. Backed by leading-edge technological expertise, they are now emboldened to compete with overseas peers.

Dongbao Pharmaceutical Co Ltd declined an offer from a US company to acquire its latest insulin technologies.

In the takeover attempt, it suggested that the Jilin company lacked the strength to industrialize its technologies.

Yet Dongbao started construction on a 420 million yuan ($68.4 million) production and R&D facility in April 2012. When operational, the company projects the new site will help it generate pharmaceuticals worth 5.14 billion yuan annually.

"European and US companies have long monopolized insulin technologies," said Li Yikui, board chairman of the company. "We're determined to break the monopoly, taking a path of proprietary innovation and joining the international competition."

Like Dongbao, Wantong Pharmaceutical has also invested heavily in R&D. Last year it spent 200 million yuan to build a biomedicine center for experiments and testing.

The complex is expected to generate 350 million yuan in annual revenues after it is put into operation.

Revenues in the province's private sector are projected to double in 2017 compared with last year.

"We'll give priority support to develop a group of high-growth, tech-driven small businesses with an edge in proprietary innovation," said Gao Guangbin, Party chief of Changchun, capital of Jilin province.

High-tech industrial parks and business incubators play a big role in the growth of privately run small businesses.

They provide factories and technological support, as well as policy consultation and management services to help reduce startup costs and risks.

The 7-square-kilometer Changdongbei tech innovation center in the Changchun National High-tech Industrial Development Zone is designed as a magnet for startup projects, investment capital and top experts and specialists from home and abroad.

Through labs and facilities for R&D, engineering, testing, experiments, equity trade and technology transfer, the new center is expected to help facilitate innovation and commercialization.

In addition, the center will highlight public services in policy, finance, information, human resources, intellectual property and international cooperation, creating an innovation-friendly climate for startups.

"We encourage local companies to integrate resources and establish strategic partnerships with universities and research institutes for innovation," said Sun Yaming, deputy-mayor of Changchun and also director of the zone's administrative committee.

"Combining government funding, diverse investment, market-driven operation and corporate-like management, the center is expected to become a model of close cooperation among industries, universities and research institutions," Sun said. "It helps to establish a new way to bond technology and economics."