专版由两篇报道组成，分别是“IAT leads zone's ambitious plans”（《先研院引领区域发展雄心》）和“Turn dreams into reality”（《美梦成真》）。
IAT leads zone's ambitious plans
Top tech university powers local growth with talented professionals and cutting-edge research achievements, Zhu Lixin reports
As digital technologies become increasingly diverse, the emerging speech technology has become an important segment with rapid growth in scale and application around the world.
Dominating the segment in China is the Anhui USTC iFLYTEK Co Ltd, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the market.
The company is a publicly listed high-tech enterprise based in the Hefei High-Tech Industry Development Zone in Hefei, Anhui province.
The speech technology, which enables a machine to hear and talk based on speech recognition and synthesis, aims to make human-machine communication as easy as conversation among people.
"We aim to make our company a top player in the global market and win the competition with Apple, Google and IBM in the field," said Liu Qingfeng, board chairman of the company.
The company, founded by Liu in 1999, had a long period of fundamental research before it won market recognition.
In December 2013, Liu, a PhD graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China - or USTC, was awarded the CCTV 2013 Economic Person of the Year.
The award is given to the 10 most influential entrepreneurs and economists who lead the country's economic development.
The success of Liu and his company is a reflection of the growing strength in technology in the Hefei high-tech zone as well as the city.
After rapid growth since the late 1970s, the nation is looking to develop in a more sustainable way and focus on innovation, which will bring opportunities to high-tech firms across the country.
In December 2013, Anhui became the country's second pilot province in innovation, following neighboring Jiangsu.
Last year, the province had 2,018 high-tech enterprises, increasing 441 from the previous year.
Newly approved patents from Anhui totaled 48,849 in the year, ranking it the sixth in the country, according to the provincial intellectual property office.
Hefei ranked 11th among China's provincial capitals with 11,487 newly approved patents in the year, 2,349 of which were from the Hefei high-tech zone.
According to British science journal Nature, the city ranks third in terms of basic scientific research strength in China.
Hefei is a member city of the World Technopolis Association.
It is home to 562 research institutions, with Hefei Institute of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences topping the list, and 61 colleges and universities with USTC at the top.
"In addition to local innovative strength and low operational costs, the rich talent pool is something that attracted our company to settle in the Hefei high-tech zone," said Huang Wang, general manager of Huaheng Electronic Technology Inc.
According to the 2013 China Business Report released by China Europe International Business School, human resources remain the primary challenge for both local and international enterprises in China.
"Lack of talented people hinders the growth of many companies - whether they are local or international - in China", said Li Weiping, a Stanford PhD graduate and former professor at the US-based Lehigh University.
Li, a listed expert in the nation's 1,000 Talent program - a move to attract high-caliber professionals from abroad, confirmed the local authorities efforts in fostering talent.
He was invited to Hefei to help cultivate more talented professionals for high-tech firms in the zone.
Li, also a professor at USTC, said he was satisfied with the large number of professionals.
By the end of 2013, the zone had more than 2,000 people with PhD degrees, 11,190 with master's degrees, nine of China's famous academicians and 300 foreign experts.
Backed by talented professionals, a number of local high-tech companies have developed into the nation's leading firms.
There are 21 companies enlisted in the Torch Project - a national program for fostering leading tech firms - and four State-recognized innovative enterprises.
The zone has 18 publicly listed companies, most of which specialize in R&D and manufacturing of high-tech products.
Forbes China rated Hefei Meiya Optoelectronic Technology Inc the 25th and USTC iFLYTEK the 38th among the top 100 publicly listed small businesses on the Chinese mainland last year.
Local authorities expect the Hefei high-tech zone to become the birthplace of more leading technologies and products by fostering more industry-leading firms.
Established in 1991, the zone has achieved rapid growth in the past years.
It has more than 8,000 enterprises, of which about 400 are funded by overseas investors.
"We welcome global businesses in micro-electronics, new energy, advanced materials, IT, medicines and healthcare to open operations here," said Li Bin, administrative director of the zone.
The zone has an office in the Silicon Valley in the United States that helps attract US tech firms.
Local authorities project that the zone will have 10,000 high-tech businesses in 2020, including R&D centers and research institutes funded by multinational companies. They plan to build the zone into a renowned high-tech site in China and the world.
An important move toward this ambitious target is the Institute of Advanced Technology - or IAT - which was jointly founded by the Anhui provincial government, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Hefei city government and USTC in 2012.
"To fulfill the ambitious plan, the zone still has a long way to go, as researchers of the high-tech firms should be academically brilliant and also know how to transfer their academic findings into products the market needs", said Liu Wen, vice-president of the IAT.
Zhang Jie, chairman of the US-based GeoTomo LLC, an international earth imaging solutions provider, agreed.
A professor at USTC, Zhang and his colleagues co-founded Hefei GeoTomo Technology Co and Anhui GeoTomo Electronic Technology Co in the IAT.
He allowed some of his prominent students to take full charge of daily operations at the two firms in the hope that they will become both researchers and entrepreneurs.
The USTC is one of the country's top universities renowned for fundamental sciences.
The university produces thousands of highly qualified graduates every year and most leave the city for more ambitious ventures across the world.
Executives at the IAT expect the institute will play a crucial role in helping Hefei train skilled professionals and win back the successful USTC alumni.
USTC professor Li Weiping, who is also the IAT's vice-president, said: "The IAT aims to provide the local industry with more skilled students to help increase the number of high-tech companies in Hefei."
As well as their regular courses students at the IAT are also taught how to start and run high-tech companies.
Li said the IAT is not only a research institute but also a high-tech park that offers a base for a number of tech firms.
He admitted that the establishment of the IAT was inspired by Stanford Research Park.
"The Stanford Research Park has served as a role model for a lot of other high-tech parks worldwide, and the IAT is one of them," he said.
Still in the construction stage, the IAT is already home to 34 high-tech firms - most of which were founded by USTC professors and students. It also has 23 laboratories established by the university and some globally renowned companies including Microsoft, Intel, Shell, Alibaba and CNPC.
Among all the firms, the most prominent is probably the Anhui Quantum Communication Technology Co Ltd, the country's first and largest quantum communication equipment manufacturer and system supplier.
"The biggest advantage of quantum communication, compared with the current telecom means, is its unconditional security," said Pan Jianwei, a top quantum professor at the USTC and chief expert in the company.
Pan's team successfully built a quantum communication network in Hefei in 2012, the first of its kind in the world. It links government agencies and financial institutions through 46 nodes, allowing real-time voice, message and file transmission.
"The application of quantum communication is wide, especially for confidential information," said Chen Kai, a professor who works with quantum networks.
Inner-city and intercity networks were never the ultimate goal of Pan's group and they are eyeing up the worldwide market.
"We're in the last step, connecting distant cities with quantum networks via satellites," said Pan.
Global IT giants like Microsoft and Intel have opened R&D facilities in the IAT. Photos Provided to China Daily
Inspired by the renowned Stanford Research Park, the IAT is a combination of a research institute and a high-tech park.
Turning dreams into reality
Tan Chang, a PhD student studying at the University of Science and Technology of China, always dreams of starting a company and improving lives with his knowledge of big data technology.
With the support of the university, his supervisors, and the IAT - a research institute and high-tech park founded by the USTC, his dreams became reality.
"Traditionally, scholars at Chinese universities focus too much on academic research but care little about transferring their studies into commercial use," said Li Weiping, vice-president of the Institute of Advanced Technology -or IAT.
Li said, even in USTC, several years ago a very small number of research projects were used by companies and very few researchers started their own businesses.
"University researchers need highly efficient institutions to help them transfer viable technologies into commercial use, " said Li.
The IAT, which was established in 2012, is now making fundamental changes.
Tan founded the Anhui Rong Data Information Technology Co Ltd in the IAT in April 2013.
The company's core team includes Tan and several of his schoolmates.
Rong Data's very first deal was made with a train service company, whose main business is train maintenance.
"Big data technology helps the company accurately locate which parts should receive maintenance, leading to substantial cost reduction," Tan explained.
Before starting the company, Tan's team offered big data solutions to Alibaba, the largest e-commerce portal in China as well as other companies.
It is early days for Rong Data but Tan feels confident about its development in the future.
He said the confidence comes from the support of various channels - the university, the IAT, his supervisors and the local government.
Tan added that he is lucky because he can get inspiration from entrepreneurs in the IAT, including Liu Qingfeng, founder of Anhui USTC iFLYTECH Co Ltd, which is the most prominent speech technology provider in China.
"His story tells us that young researchers should never be confined to the labs, instead, they should dare to bring academic findings into practical applications.
"Technology will play a more important role in people's life. The big data technology is a milestone innovation in the information era, which is expected to redefine modern businesses," said the young entrepreneur.
Tan said professional services available from venture capital companies were also crucial for high-tech start-ups.
The IAT has two venture capital companies, which offer financial services and useful consultations on business operations, according to Tan.
Tan admitted that when he tried to apply for funding, he was told that his firm may fail to meet the requirements as he still has to optimize his team.
"There's no problem with the company's R&D strength, they just need a more efficient core team", said Shao Kedi, general manager of Anhui PrimeCo Financial Services Ltd.
Tan said he has also received guidance from both the IAT and the Hefei high-tech zone on how to start and run a company.
The guidance, in the form of free courses given by professionals hired by the government, covers a wide range of topics, including how to make use of the zone's preferential tax policies and how to improve operations by adopting share incentive plans.
The green grounds of the IAT are already home to 34 tech firms and 23 labs, although it is still being built.