Technological supremacy reigns in Chengdu

BY apdOct 22,2021 at 14:16

Local government rolling out slew of supportive policies to transform city into an innovation hub

Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan province is accelerating its development driven by technological innovation.

Qitan Tech, founded in Chengdu in 2016, is in the DNA sequencing business. DNA sequencing is the process of determining the exact sequence of bases found in a DNA molecule. The technique is used to learn about the genes or genetic material that make up an organism.

Through years of research and development, Qitan Tech launched China's first nanopore-based single molecule gene sequencer, which has made its mark in the field of new-generation gene-sequencing technology in China.

Different from the mainstream next-generation sequencing technology, it has broad prospects for future applications due to its advantages of long-read capability, portability, direct-sequencing ability and the real-time output of results.

"The application scenarios of the nanopore-based sequencing technology are manifold and beyond our imagination," said Xie Dan, one of the founders of Qitan Tech.

In the area of public health, the technology is helpful because of its small size. This helps end the dependence on laboratory-based testing. Testers can be brought to the frontline at anytime and anyplace to solve problems.

As a technology-driven enterprise, Qitan Tech has built up an interdisciplinary R&D team, the company said. At the moment, it is applying for nearly 40 patents and copyrights.

Altogether the company has more than 200 employees. Covering studies of proteins, chips, circuits, software, algorithms and other disciplines, R&D personnel account for more than 75 percent of the workforce.

"As a company engaged in biomedicine, the benefits brought by Chengdu's industry supporting facilities and business environment are clear," Xie said. He added that Chengdu is rolling out policies to foster a number of scientific and technological innovation-driven enterprises.

The city is continually introducing policies to provide resources, funds and infrastructure. And it is improving the business-support system, so that startups have no concerns and can focus on their R&D, Xie said.

According to Xie, the nanopore-based gene sequencer by Qitan Tech is a cutting-edge technology. Its development involved the integration of different disciplines and required a group of well-educated talent with a multidisciplinary background.

Chengdu has gathered a number of first-class universities in the fields of biomedicine and electronic information, such as the Sichuan University and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

This has made the city home to a large number of talented individuals.

In April, Qitan Tech's first production base with a unique process and certificate in a good manufacturing practice, or GMP, was launched in Chengdu Tianfu International Bio-town. It is scheduled to be complete and start operation by the end of this year.

Xie said that the company will continue to invest in the R&D of medium and high-throughput models to provide choices in accordance with customers' application scenarios. At the same time, it will upgrade current products.

Traffic congestion is a common issue in major cities.

A Chengdu company said it will bring an on-demand "special air bus" into public life to solve travel problems.

On Sept 22, urban air traffic pioneer Volocopter joined hands with Aerofugia-a subsidiary of Geely that is engaged in unmanned aerial vehicles-and launched a joint venture in the Chengdu Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone.

The joint venture will be responsible for the production and market operation of Volocopter's products in China. It plans to help launch urban air transport within three to five years.

Chengdu will be one of the first cities to test the project.

The company's launch is in accordance with the general plan of Geely Technology's aviation sector. The launch is also a chance to explore the Chinese market by relying on the foundation of the Chengdu Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone, said Jing Chao, president of the joint venture.

In addition to the two innovation-driven companies, there are a handful of similar enterprises in Chengdu, as the city is making every effort to boost high-level scientific and technological innovation.

Thanks to this, a large number of high-tech enterprises and cutting-edge scientific and technological achievements have mushroomed in the city.

In 2020, there were 62 city-level and above technology business incubators and spaces launched, with some 6,000 high-tech enterprises registered in total. The revenue of the city's high-tech industry has hit a 1-trillion-yuan ($154.5 billion) scale.

In the first half of this year, a total of 4,891 national-level science and technology-based small and medium-sized enterprises were registered in Chengdu, up 11.9 percent year-on-year. The collective revenue of the high-tech industry in the city achieved a 20-percent rise in this period.

Behind the enhancements of Chengdu's innovation strategy, the city government is rolling out policies for the construction of the Chengdu-Chongqing Twin-City Economic Circle. It hopes to build itself into a national-level scientific and technological innovation center.

In terms of incubating core technologies, Chengdu will support scientific research to focus on the bottlenecks in the industrial chain and promote the joint efforts of research teams from universities and industries in core technologies, especially in some key industries such as biomedicine, big data and unmanned aerial vehicles, officials said.


From left: Chengdu Science City is to be built into a cradle of new technology, new industrial forms and new business patterns. Tianfu Laboratory is a science and technology base for Sichuan province to develop its technological innovation strength. An employee of Qitan Tech works at the company's lithography workshop. CHINA DAILY


The Chengdu Innovation Research Institute of Beihang University in Chengdu Science City, which is home to a group of top colleges, universities and scientific research institutions. CHINA DAILY


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