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[BEIJING] China plans to increase the amount of university research that gets developed into commercial products by building 30 new science and technology parks by 2010.

The move, announced last week by the Ministry of Science and Technology, will bring the total number of such facilities to 80.

The parks act as 'incubators' for small and medium-sized high-tech companies, many of which are set up by universities or students.

Xu Luping, a senior official at the Ministry of Science and Technology, says that about 5,000 businesses have been set up in the 50 existing parks.

China started building science parks at universities in the late 1980s, with local governments and the universities usually covering the construction costs.

Thanks to policies China announced in February, the parks will enjoy a range of tax breaks starting this year (see China unveils plans for science-based development). Xu told SciDev.Net that the amount each company is taxed would fall by 17.5 per cent.

He says that China considers science parks to be central to its efforts to build capacity for innovation, because university-based researchers are among the most productive in China.

Universities won more than half of the national science and technology prizes awarded between 2000 and 2005.

This year, 17 universities have submitted applications for science parks, with only nine reaching the second round of competition.

Xu says that a panel of experienced park managers will soon complete its final assessments of the applications. Eight will be chosen for this year's programme.

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