China continues to dominate growth in R&D, with Nikkei and Elsevier ranking the country first in the world with the largest share of research papers in 23 of 30 fields that generate the most interest. These fields include monoatomic layers, sodium ion batteries, nucleic acid–targeted cancer treatment, biofuel cells and lithium ion batteries. The US ranked number 1 in the remaining 7 categories, which consist of Zika virus infection, immune therapy, genome editing, intercellular signaling, intestinal bacteria, use of carbon dioxide and laser melting.

Beyond the volume of research papers, China’s quality of research has been steadily improving over the past few years, comprising 11% of global papers that made the largest impact. The spike in scientific research comes after a solid increase in R&D investment, with the country more than tripling R&D spending between 2010 and 2016. Domestic R&D investment was $410 billion in 2016, trailing close behind the US’s $464 billion in domestic R&D investment. China has also increased the number of papers it published in scientific journals by 27% over 5 years to 510,000 in 2017. Although the US ranked first with 560,000 papers, the country’s output has largely plateaued.

China’s rapid rise in R&D activity is to a great extent due to its focus on investing in areas that have commercial potential, specifically material science applications in electronics and electric vehicles. As per the country’s Made in China 2025 campaign, China is refining its R&D process to become a manufacturing powerhouse by 2025 and a world leading producer by 2049.

SourceNikkei Asian Review

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