“The first difficulty faced by new materials in China is to ‘cook with equal rice’.” Qiu Yong, a professor of Tsinghua University and an academician of the CAS Member, said bluntly that new materials often need a long process from research and development to mature application. At present, the development of new materials in China lags far behind the needs of the manufacturing industry.
On December 20, at the 2018 China New Materials Industry Development Conference held in Nanjing, more than 30 academicians and nearly 3000 people in the material industry attended the meeting, and material innovation and industrialization became the focus of attention.
Industrial upgrading, material first. Materials are the foundation of national manufacturing industry. The level of research and development of new materials and the scale of industrialization are important indicators to measure a country’s scientific and technological and economic strength. They play an important role in developing high-tech, transforming and upgrading traditional industries, and enhancing comprehensive national strength and national defense strength. However, due to the late start and weak foundation of China’s new material industry, the overall strength is still relatively weak.
“There is still a big gap between China’s new material industry and developed countries,” said Wei Bingbo, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 2017, the scale of China’s new material industry reached 3.1 trillion yuan, but there is still a big gap between the innovation ability and competitive strength and the international advanced level. According to the survey of more than 130 key materials by relevant ministries and commissions, 32% are still in the blank, and 52% rely on imports; 95% of high-end dedicated chips, more than 70% of intelligent terminal processors and most of storage chips rely on imports; More than half of the “stuck neck” projects implemented by foreign countries in China belong to the field of new materials.
Advanced technology cannot be bought. As a metal material expert, Professor Liu Qing, president of Jiangsu Institute of Industrial Technology, has deep experience: “Many materials manufacturing equipment in China are the most advanced in the world, but they cannot produce the most advanced materials.” He told the reporter that XCMG Group, the leading enterprise in the construction machinery industry in China, still needs to import the steel plates for the telescopic boom of its manufacturing high-tonnage lifting equipment; The high-strength gear steel of Nangao Gear still needs to be imported; The large aircraft, engines, ships, etc. currently under research in China are faced with the urgent need to break through the material and preparation technology of core components.
“If there is nothing to do, use others’ first, and then catch up with them. But this late-developing advantage, which is highly respected by the domestic industry, does not exist in many material fields.” Qiu Yong said that the new material industry is on the contrary, there is a “latecomer disadvantage”, that is, it is not easy to be accepted by the market. The initial market cultivation is the key link in the promotion and application of new materials. The difficulty in the promotion and application of the “first batch” of new materials is the key bottleneck restricting the industrialization of new material technological innovation achievements in China.
The experts at the meeting pointed out that the top-level design and overall coordination of China’s new material industry are insufficient at present, and there is a phenomenon of low-level redundant construction; The original innovation ability is insufficient, the general technology research and development and support ability is not strong, and the self-sufficiency rate of high-end products is not high; The investment in new materials is scattered, the industrial chain is not complete, and the new material enterprises as the main body of development are generally small in scale and low in conversion rate; The policy and guarantee mechanism are difficult to adapt to the requirements of the development of the new material industry, and there is the phenomenon of “old methods manage new things”.
How to build a new material innovation system with strong R&D capability and high industrial integration has also been put on the agenda. “The development of new materials should attach equal importance to innovation and application.” Qiu Yong believes that material technology has the characteristics of long chain and cross-scale. It often takes a long process from research and development to mature application of new materials. Without continuous improvement of performance of materials in application, process technology cannot be optimized iteratively, and some key data cannot be accumulated.
However, among the existing material research and development institutions in China, the relevant research in universities emphasizes free exploration and lacks systematicness; The research institute of the Academy of Sciences pays attention to the discipline orientation and is not integrated with the industry enough; Industry and enterprise research institutions pay attention to the rapid improvement of technology and lack of originality, which are difficult to meet the needs of China’s manufacturing and material industries for new material technology with the rapid development over the years.
At present, Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute has established 6 research institutes in the field of materials relying on the national research and development platform, and 8 research institutes with local governments and innovation teams, covering advanced metal materials, high-temperature alloy materials, carbon fiber and composite materials, membrane materials, functional fiber materials and other fields.
“In order to strengthen the original research and accelerate the research and development of new materials and their preparation and production technologies, we must start the exploration of new mechanisms and systems.” Liu Qing said that in view of the urgent needs of China’s new materials industry, Jiangsu Provincial Institute of Industry and Research will integrate the existing resources of its materials sector, jointly coordinate the leading enterprises, universities and scientific research institutes in the field of materials, and plan to establish the Jiangsu Advanced Materials Technology Innovation Center.
According to the introduction, the biggest feature of the center is flexible mechanism, open sharing, taking the research and development and application of cutting-edge leading technologies and key common technologies in the material industry as the core, strengthening the application of basic research, increasing the supply of major key technology sources, and not competing with universities for academic fame, and not competing with enterprises for product benefits. Through the construction of the first phase in about three years, we have conquered a number of cutting-edge and common key technologies in the new material industry, such as high-strength and high-modulus carbon fiber, the fifth generation single crystal superalloy, and new hydrogen storage materials; In the fields of advanced metal materials, carbon fiber and its composites, membrane materials, polymer materials and other fields, an innovative industrial cluster with great development potential and strong driving role has been initially formed.