Talent recruitment crucial to local development drive
Updated: 2013-09-06 07:20
By Yan Yiqi (China Daily)
Talent is essential for companies seeking to climb up the value chain.
This is why the recruitment of scientific researchers has become a strategic priority for government agencies at all levels in Zhejiang, a province that has long relied on private enterprises to fuel its rapid economic growth.
For the past five years, Zhejiang enterprises have been holding activities to attract scientific talent in Silicon Valley, the famed technological hub of the United States.
By combining the abundant capital of Zhejiang's entrepreneurs with advanced technology provided by researchers from overseas, the province can create a new model for development, according to the local government.
With cities that are small compared to China's metropolises, Zhejiang is unable to provide the same level of social, education, healthcare and housing resources as cities like Beijing or Shanghai. So the issue of how to attract high-tech talent, especially ones from overseas, is a big question for local governments.
Almost all cities in Zhejiang are making great strides to attract talent, and some, like Jiaxing, have already had success.
A technician works in a laboratory of the Jiaxing Science City. Photos provided to China Daily
Before he set up a company in China four years ago, Ling Zhimin was leading a very comfortable life in the United States. His had an annual salary of more than $200,000 in his role as vice-president of a solar energy company in Silicon Valley, California.
But after getting his doctorate in the US and living there for more than two decades, Ling decided to return to China to start a business in Jiaxing, a small city in north of Zhejiang province.
What makes this city special is that it is full of hundreds of scientists like Ling all laboring away there to make their business dreams come true.
Most of the entrepreneurs in Jiaxing are highly accomplished individuals from other parts of the country, and many live thousands of kilometers from their families.
Jiaxing Science City, a development zone set up for the industrialization of advanced technology, has attracted 202 doctors and 305 masters in scientific fields over the past 10 years.
Ling's wife and son are still in the US, and he flies there every month to take care of both family and business.
"Before I decided to start a business here in Jiaxing, I looked at many other development zones in other Chinese cities," he says.
"To be frank, Jiaxing did not offer the biggest startup funding, but money was not the most important thing. It was Jiaxing's supportive policies and assistance that persuaded me to come here."
Ling set up Altenergy Power Systems Inc, which makes micro inverters for solar power systems, with Luo Yuhao, a researcher he had worked with in the US. Micro inverters are components that convert solar energy into alternating current.
Sun Xuyang, director of the administrative commission of the science city, said that its goal is to encourage scientific researchers to start their own businesses so they can better industrialize the fruits of their research.
"China is not short of scientific research achievements, but most Chinese companies lack the power of innovation," he says.
"One of the crucial reasons is that Chinese research is done with little reference to market demands. Here we encourage scientists to set up companies so they can better understand the market."
The science park, covering just 3.65 sq km, has nurtured more than 250 companies since 2003. Among them, 135 are involved in scientific innovation and have applied for 375 patents.
Last year, the science city had revenue totaling 56 million yuan ($9.1 million), more than tripling the amount seen in the previous year. In the first quarter of this year, its industrial output rose 97.3 percent year-on-year, to 1.06 billion yuan.
"The science city has given birth to these companies and watched them grow," Sun said.
"We've worked hard for eight years, and it's now time for all of us to enjoy the fruits of our success. One advantage of scientists being businesspeople is that they can step into the business sphere and get a feel for where trends are leading."
Last year, China's solar industry hit a rough patch as a result of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations by the European Union. But Ling's company had sales revenue of 5.6 million yuan last year. According to the company, it ranks second in the world among companies producing similar products.
Because of the background he and his partner shared, Ling said there was a wide range of products they could industrialize.
"But we decided to do things with disruptive technology that no one else can do," Ling said.
Micro inverters are particularly important in household solar power systems, Ling said. They are widely used in Western countries but not in China yet. About 80 percent to 90 percent of his company's products are sold to the United States and Australia. In Australia, his products are the bestseller in their category.
"I don't think the solar power industry in China is dead," Ling said. "Instead, today's crisis is an opportunity for the industry to upgrade, and companies that survive this crisis can make a difference for at least the next decade."
(China Daily USA 09/06/2013 page19)