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More top Chinese scientists deciding to return home


06-13-2016 05:04 BJT

China's increased investment in science and technology is having a global impact on the field. Higher wages and improved facilities are drawing some of the country's top scientific minds back to China. The effort is also increasing collaboration with overseas institutions.

Inside the University of Sydney’s state of the art Nanoscience Hub. Chunle Xiong is carrying out work on an unimaginable scale. After moving to Australia to join the university 8 years ago - Xiong has gained a reputation for being a pioneer in photonics - controlling photons or particles of light in a way that scientists say will transform the world around us.

"Providing breathtaking increases in processing power and new functionality that will provide technologies that will address some of the grand challenges that we face as a society in communications, in computing but also in safeguarding, security and healthcare," Professor Benjamin Eggleton with University of Sydney said.

At the time Xiong went overseas to further his studies and research - he says the career options for scientists in China were limited.

'At that moment the investment from the Chinese government to research was not as big as now - my feeling at that moment was not much experimental facilities for research," Chunle Xiong with University of Sydney said.

But China’s commitment to science and technology has changed.

"The investment, the building up of capacity, and the creation of the real scale of excellence in a number of areas has been really breathtaking," Professor Eggleton said.

There used to be a theory that nation’s standing was measured by its military might. But it appears for many countries that science and technology are the new standards.”

"I think what the Chinese government has realised now consistently over the last 2 or 3 decades is that maybe the number of universities we have that occupy positions among the global top 100 are going to be equally important, indeed more important indicators of our true national power," UNSW's Laurie Pearcey said.

That consistent investment is also prompting prominent scientists including Chunle Xiong to consider a move back to China.

"I’ve started actually contacting universities in China to find out where is the best for my research," Xiong said.

Several Australian universities have established collaborative programs with Chinese institutions and the Chinese government.

"From UNSW’s point of view - we are tapping into the world’s largest, most rapidly rising investor in science and technology," Pearcey said.

Scientists say the benefits from those efforts - will go well beyond borders.

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