New research institutes empowering Chinese economy

2019-08-09 02:28:28 GMT2019-08-09 10:28:28(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
Undated file photo shows a video snapshot expounding on ET Agricultural Brains. (Xinhua) Undated file photo shows a video snapshot expounding on ET Agricultural Brains. (Xinhua)

HANGZHOU, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming traditional pig farming in China.

At a pig farm in southwest China, pigs are cared for mostly by cameras equipped with an ET Agricultural Brain, collecting data from the chips on the livestock to ensure all are healthy.

"Cameras with AI brain can recognize each pig and monitor in real-time their sizes, moving distances and even conditions according to the sound they make when breastfeeding, sleeping or sick," said Su Zhipeng, a PhD of veterinary medicine in charge of the farm run by the Tequ Group in Sichuan Province.

With the help of the AI system, the annual production capacity of a sow is expected to rise by three head this year, and the death rate reduced by about 3 percent, said Su.

The ET Agricultural Brain was invented by novel scientific research institute Damo Academy, an open research platform initiated by China's tech giant Alibaba Group.

NEW INSTITUTES

In recent years, a new generation of scientific research institutes has sprung up in China. The Damo Academy and Luohan Academy run by Alibaba, Zhejiang Laboratory in Hangzhou and Pengcheng Laboratory in Shenzhen are among the most renowned.

With names all marked with traditional Chinese characteristics, the four focus on the most cutting-edge tech fields in today's world, from AI and cyberspace security to quantum computing.

Yin Yanlong, a new recruit for the Zhejiang Lab jointly set up by the Zhejiang University, Zhejiang provincial government and Alibaba, is building a team to work on system services for AI computing.

"The existing computing systems, such as supercomputers and commercial cloud computing platforms, have very powerful functions, but they cannot be well integrated to meet the needs of AI computing," said Yin.

AI research needs the continuous input of human and financial resources, while enterprises need new technology to help increase productivity.

"It is our mission to serve as a bridge between industries and universities to solve problems and challenges in the development of AI," said Yin.

Zheng Yuhua, deputy director of the Zhejiang Lab, said the emergence of the new institutions is triggered by the actual demand of the AI technology wave.

"Amid the fourth industrial revolution, we have to deal with much bigger and more complex scientific problems than ever," said Zheng.

NEW MODEL

China's traditional scientific research system often results in low efficiency with defects including the limits of government-budgeted fields and posts, small research teams and staff pursuing titles and papers.

Unlike the traditional organizations, the novel ones are often jointly established by tech giants, prestigious universities and local governments.

Therefore, they are not constrained by the old system and corporate profit-seeking targets. Most importantly, they can help bring scientific research achievements to meet the market demands much sooner than before.

Yin said the management of Zhejiang Lab is highly efficient with many research teams running like start-ups. "Different from enterprises, we do not need to worry much about the short-term output but to think from a long-term perspective," said the researcher.

The Zhejiang provincial government has provided sufficient support in the lab construction and talent policy, ensuring a sound environment for the professionals to carry out fundamental scientific research and key technological innovation.

As a result, the lab has attracted 800 talented people from all around the world, including academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering and Canadian Academy of Science, IEEE Fellows and Turing Award winners.

GROWTH DRIVER

Many of the research results from the new-generation scientific research institutions provide a boost to China's economy that badly needs technological innovation to aid its ongoing transition for quality growth.

In Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., the "supET industrial internet," which combines big data, cloud computing and AI, helps optimize the product qualification rate by 3 to 5 percent and increase its annual net profit by 10 million yuan (1.4 million U.S. dollars).

This project, co-developed by Alibaba Cloud Computing, Zhejiang Central Control and Zhejiang Lab, has significantly improved the operations of manufacturing enterprises, said Ku Wei, president of IoT, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba, has said that he hopes that new research institutes like Damo will become the driver of innovation in China and even the rest of the world.

Lando Biochemicals in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, has created a medical artificial skin that is now used at hospitals nationwide.

The company is one of over 2,500 businesses incubated by the Research Institute of Tsinghua University in Shenzhen, which is co-established by the Shenzhen municipal government.

"Only by making the market a key factor in the allocation of innovative resources can we better transform the research results," said Liu Weiqiang, executive vice president of the Tsinghua University institute.

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