Small and medium-sized enterprises in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, will be allowed to apply for innovation vouchers, or small lines of credit provided by the local government to purchase scientific research services, according to a top official of the local government.
The move is part of the initiatives issued by the local government to boost innovation and technology development, said Chen Jianhua, mayor of Guangzhou.
“They might not be big financial support for SMEs, but the innovation vouchers are more like letters of credit issued to companies, especially those engaged in emerging innovation-driven industries, which are supported by the government,” said Chen.
Companies, which are awarded innovation vouchers, are allowed to purchase technology services including product design, property rights, sci-tech consultation, technology detection, authentication and high performance computing, at a discount of up to 70 percent from public research institutions, according to Chen.
For example, a company could buy computing service from Tianhe II, the world’s fastest super computer based in Guangzhou, at only 1.2 million yuan ($193,500) a year, which usually costs 2 million yuan for a single equipment cabinet, if it is granted with an innovation voucher.
“The move, which is aimed at boosting innovation and technology research capability of tech-innovative companies, can help build closer relationships between SMEs and public research institutions,” said Chen.
He made the remarks during a meeting with representatives from domestic Internet media groups, who are on a five-day visit to Guangdong, a longtime testing ground for China’s reform and opening-up policy since the late 1970s.
A company can apply for innovation vouchers worth no more than 3 million yuan a year, according to Chen.
Compared with subsidized interests, innovation vouchers are more of direct financial and policy support to innovation-driven businesses, as small companies usually face difficulties in raising funds for technology research, according to Chen.
“We must have more favorable financial policies for innovation-driven companies, especially to support technology development,” said Chen.
Chen also called for wider support from public technology research institutions to local small businesses as the city is trying to create an innovation-driven economy.
“For years, the transformation of science and technology into a productive force has been a major weakness for Guangzhou,” Chen said.
Guangzhou’s financial input in science and technology research accounted for just 34 percent of that in Shenzhen, or China’s Silicon Valley, in 2013.
Huawei Technology Co Ltd, based in Shenzhen, invested about 40 billion yuan in technology research in 2014, surpassing Guangzhou’s total investment in the sector in the year, according to Chen.
According to Chen, Guangzhou’s government investment in science and technology research will increase from 5 billion yuan in 2013 to 10 billion yuan in 2017.
“Usually, one yuan from government financial input in science and technology will help result in four to five yuan investment from social funds,” Chen said.
According to Chen, up to 70 percent of large-scale companies will establish technology research and development centers in 2017.