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[China Education Journal] Concentrated efforts of Chongqing University on scientific and technological innovation

It was very early in the morning when Professor Wang Shilong was still working hard in the State Key Laboratory of Mechanical Transmission, Chongqing University. “My dream is to make every part and gear ‘talk’ and ‘communicate’ with each other!” Wang Shilong, a winner of the national second award for progress in science and technology, is leading a team that works on gear manufacturing of key components of large wind power generation facilities and aircraft carriers by breaking the foreign technical barriers. At present, the national key R&D program undertaken by the team of Professor Wang aims to organically integrate the storage capacity and computing capacity of computers with the decision-making ability and thinking capacity of humans. The chips embedded in the parts make them intelligent and greatly improve the operation efficiency of workshops.

This is one of the many programs undertaken by Chongqing University to promote prosperity of China’s industry and serve the national strategic requirements for development with scientific and technological innovation.

Previously, Chongqing University has sent teams to the Arctic Pole to carry out scientific investigation; designed the first 35kw short-wave radio station; developed the first batch of gallnut gallic acid plastics; discovered Bayan Obo Iron Mine; discovered for the first time the fossil of an ancient fish species that lived on the earth 300 million years ago; participated in important research and development work for the first manned space flight project, the first moon probe project and the first geosynchronous earth orbit satellite; developed the first photoelectricity circular dividing machines with precision of ±0.1 second of arc and the first industrial non-destructive testing machine (ICT); won the first national award for progress in science and technology for ecological planning and construction of mountainous cities; developed the first uniformed national standard for structural design of buildings; and successfully planted the first sprout of plant…For 90 years, Chongqing University has made enormous achievements and it’s now under the “Double-First-Rate” construction.

“Repeated practice reveals that the only way to fundamentally safeguard the economic security, defense security and other aspects of security of China is to get hold of the core and key technologies.” This is also the initial intention to which Chongqing University has been adhering.

Chongqing University has a fully-equipped disciplinary system that is closely correlated with the new industrialization and urbanization, and it is playing a leading role nationwide in many areas. In recent years, Chongqing University has initiated a number of successful reforms based on its traditional advantages in engineering science that aim to develop world cutting-edge science and technology utilizing resources in west China.

Strategic planning

Concentrating efforts on tackling “bottleneck” issues

Apparently the “old path” of technical research and development by one discipline alone is no longer able to meet the current strategic need of China and the scientific development. Modernized reform of traditional engineering courses has become an inevitable trend. This is a challenge of the time facing all research workers of Chongqing University.

Ming Ju, vice president of Chongqing University, told China Education Journal that the efforts made by Chongqing University to build the new “1+5” scientific research innovation system were part of the reforms, and provided organizational support and resource support for solving key problems with scientific research.

The reform is directly reliant on reconstruction of the organizational mode of scientific research and the scientific and technological innovation system. The structure of the new “1+5” scientific research innovation system comprises one scientific research management agency under “Institute of Science Research and Development”, and five scientific research entities like “the Institute of Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies”, “the Industrial Technology Research Institute”, “Institute of National Defense (Advanced Technology)”, “the International Joint Research Institute” and “General Research Institute of Architecture and Planning Design Co., Ltd.” A full-chain organizational mode for scientific research that includes fundamental research, technical innovation, engineering practice, achievements transformation and industrial cultivation has been created. It provides full coverage from original innovation to application practice, and has already become the new engine of Chongqing University that drives scientific and technological innovation. “Under the new scientific research organizational mode and the scientific and technological innovation system, Chongqing University has been making remarkable progress in its scientific research. Particularly, tremendous advancement has been seen in general reforms of the three national key labs of Chongqing University.”

Furthermore, the reform of academic evaluation system is also in progress, and is bound to add vitality to the scientific and technological innovation. In order to get rid of “excessive emphases on papers, titles, positions, academic degrees and awards” in academic evaluation, Chongqing University has built up a classification and grading system for research findings in natural science with its development goals and actual situations taken into consideration. In the scientific research performance assessment and achievement rewarding work of 2019, Chongqing University managed to break away from those “five excessive emphases” and motivated the enthusiasm of research workers. It has resulted in scientific research outcomes of higher quality and improved the core competitiveness of Chongqing University in science and technology.

“When it comes to learning from first-rate universities, we should focus on their disciplinary layout. Chongqing University is well-known for its advantages in engineering courses. We should seek for a reasonable disciplinary layout to give full play to such advantages, so as to ‘make our advantages more prominent and hit off disadvantages’.” Guided by President Zhang Zongyi, Chongqing University analyzed the disciplinary structures of a number of first-rate universities well-known for their advantages in engineering science at home and abroad, and found the answer: Many first-rate universities of the world have substantial fundamental disciplines and basic research strength, and more importantly, they have a balanced disciplinary structure and attach importance to coordinated and integrated development of disciplines, and disciplinary ecology that values mutual support and coordinated development.

In recent years, Chongqing University has dramatically improved its advantageous disciplines by constantly optimizing and completing the disciplinary layout, building a first-rate disciplinary system, carrying out steady disciplinary adjustment, further sorting out relations between disciplines and schools and gathering construction strength.

After many years of construction, Chongqing University has gained inspiring development momentum. The engineering courses of Chongqing University were ranked among top 1‰ ESI courses in November 2017, and are now still on the stable rise (they were ranked the 62nd place globally in March 2020). The leap-forward progress made by Chongqing University in engineering science and related areas has laid a solid foundation for it to create a highland of engineering science in west China and serve the national strategy, industrial development and regional construction.

“From nothing to one”

Original innovation: Building a “skyscraper” on the foundation of “advantageous disciplines”

The electron microscope technique and equipment hailed as “the eye of scientific researches” are the key to new basic scientific discoveries and revolutionary technical breakthroughs, and play a critical role in development of engineering science.

Many years ago, Liu Qing, Nie Jianfeng, Huang Xiaoxu, Tang Wenxin, Wu Guilin and other experts in related areas gathered in Chongqing University and set out to carry out the basic frontier research of electron microscope technique and equipment. In 2015, the Electron Microscope Center of Chongqing University was founded, which independently developed the first 3D-oriented transmission electron microscope and aberration correcting ultrafast spinning low energy electron microscopy in the world. In the process of independent innovation, the Electron Microscope Center of Chongqing University has now developed into a world first-rate electron microscope organization with the best electron microscope and talent teams.

“Chongqing University has always encouraged and tried to guide the research workers to probe into scientific questions behind technology and to make something out of nothing.” Tang Wenxin told China Education Journal, “Professor Wan Weishi and I have been engaged in development of ultrafast electron microscope and perceived the importance and advancement of electron microscope technology in understanding of structure of matter from the dimension of time. In addition, the high flux photons with adjustable width spectrum generated by synchrotron radiation light source play an irreplaceable role in research of material science. This idea is mutually supplementary with the research carried out by another reputable university.” Based on this idea, Chongqing University has organized a number of argumentations among experts from home and abroad, which provided clearer thoughts on the research. They gradually came to see that the research did not only improve performance but also generated new transient process in the excited state. This provided important approach to understanding the temporal and spatial changing of material structure in the future. Therefore, the first large scientific device named “experiment device for ultra transient material science” was put on the agenda.

As the first large scientific device inaugurated by municipal officials of Chongqing, “experiment device for ultra transient material science” is one of the core projects involved in construction of West China (Chongqing) Science Town and Scientific and Technological Innovation Center, and will serve as the mechanism and method to solve problems related to ultra fast material regulation in areas such as electronic information, life health, new energy and new materials. It will be able to help us make major breakthroughs in new theory on material science and produce significant original scientific and technological achievements.

In addition, in order to tackle critical, fundamental and common technical issues facing development of the industry and the related areas, Chongqing University is now making efforts to build up a common technology R&D platform that will provide industrial services such as R&D and test of high-end equipment for extreme environments. It will also promote resource sharing, drive optimization and upgrading of industrial structure, serve the society and lead industrial development.

Cai Zhenhong, head of the Development and Planning Department of Chongqing University, said, “Chongqing University is building a ‘skyscraper’ on the foundation of its ‘disciplinary advantages’. It will gather high-level world-first-rate talents that are playing a leading role in China, and carry out original fundamental researches and critical major technological R&D projects to create something out of nothing. Its ultimate goal is to drive the integrated development of various disciplines including mechanical engineering, material science and engineering and instrument science and technology.”

Serving development

Assisting Chongqing in building up a science highland in west China

Construction of Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle is another strategic move of the Central Committee of the CPC to facilitate coordinated development of regions in the new era. As the efforts of Chongqing to become a nationwide influential scientific and technological innovation center of China and its contribution to construction of Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle, Chongqing is now building the West China (Chongqing) Science Town.

As a university under the “Double-First-Rate” Construction Program, Chongqing University is situated in Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle and West China (Chongqing) Science Town. Chongqing University’s President Zhang Zongyi said, “In recent 2 years, Chongqing University has been on the fast track of development, and has seen inspiring development in areas such as talent cultivation, disciplinary construction, scientific research, team building and international cooperation and exchange. Its overall strength has been constantly improving.” In January 2020, the Project named “theory and technology of high-rise steel-concrete structure and its engineering application” directed by the team of Academician Zhou Xuhong of Chongqing University was given the national first award for progress in science and technology. The findings have been adopted by more than 10 standards and provided solutions to engineering application of high-rise mixed structure projects. Compared with traditional reinforcement concrete structure, the technology is able to save concrete by about 40% to 50% and steel by about 30% to 40%. The comprehensive cost can be reduced by about 30%. By now, the findings have been used in more than 300 projects across over 30 countries, which have seen significant economic and social benefits. Those findings will hopefully be used extensively in the future.

Magnesium, as a light metal, has huge development potential and value known to a few. The research and application of magnesium alloy have now been included in the national strategy. Academician Pan Fusheng is one of the pioneers of the 100-billion-yuan-level magnesium industry of China. With his efforts, the new material magnesium alloy is now extensively used in the manufacturing industry, which improves the international competitiveness of China in industrial manufacturing areas like automobiles and transportation. The teams led by Nie Jianfeng and Huang Xiaoxu have published their research findings in the material area in Nature and Science. These are the results of constant progress made by Chongqing University in construction of the “skyscraper” and are part of the solid foundation for Chongqing to build a science highland in west China.

Chongqing University is going to devote all its strength to construction of West China (Chongqing) Science Town. It will also build the Science Center of Chongqing University which will be located in the University Town.

In the meantime, in order to “focus on key areas, gather advantageous resources, promote innovation capacity and drive industrial development”, Chongqing University will carry forward construction of achievements transformation platforms like CQU Rim Innovation Ecological Circle, International Joint Research Institute of Chongqing University and Chongqing University Industrial Technology Research Institute, aggregate advantageous innovation resources from home and abroad and build scientific and technological innovation bases and platforms with core competitiveness, with the strategic emerging industries of Chongqing as the mainline.

How should we give full play to its advantages in fundamental researches and application basic researches, focus on key areas and core technologies and solve the “bottleneck” issues and constantly improve CQU’s scientific research innovation capacity and its ability to serve the society? This is the question that needs to be answered by Chongqing University. Chongqing University is now more determined and nerved than ever. With construction of the large scientific device, the Science Center and various platforms of achievements transformation, Chongqing University will be able to gather intelligence and strength, and convert the intelligence advantages of Chongqing University into the never-ending energy that drives high-quality development of the West China Science Town, so that it will serve the national strategy better, said Zhang Zongyi.