A Guide to Research Grants in China

A Guide to Research Grants in China

According to the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, by 2013 the total research funding in China had snowballed into 179 billion dollars. The government will continue to sink more money for scientific research in 2014. Though it is not publicly stated, the country tends to put much more efforts into funding projects of natural science and technology.

Research funding agencies

Research funds are available at all tiers of society from state level to private sector. Key projects are mainly administered by state governments like Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science and Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Provincial and municipal government departments usually provide funding to researchers, scientists or scholars working in local higher educational institutes. Colleges and universities manage a variety of grants to faculty members of their own. Enterprises may also run charities or research positions to attract researchers.

Top fund raisers

Among the many ranking lists of top universities in circulation, one is given by the single criterion of capacity to raise grants for research. Following is the list of top ten Chinese universities which have received most research funding in 2013. The figure attached at the end of each institute is the specific billion CNY obtained. 985 is one of the national projects of building high-profile institutes and top-class education and research in the Higher Education sector . Only 39 domestic institutes are conclusively included in the project.

1. 985 Tsinghua University 3.931

2. 985 Zhejiang University 3.607

3. 985 Shanghai Jiaotong University 3.109

4. 985 Peking University 2.773

5. 985 Fudan University 2.552

6. 985 Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2.219

7. 985 Huazhong University of Science and Technology 2.219

8. 985 Tongji University 2.207

9. 985 Harbin Institute of Technology 2.145

10. 985 Sichuan University 1.999

National Key Projects and Websites

1. National Key National Technology Research and Development (R&D) Program

The Key Technologies R&D Program is the first national science and technology program in China. It aims to address major science and technology issues in national economic construction and social development. Initiated in 1982 and implemented through four Five-year Plans, the Program funded and administered by Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China. It is reported to have made remarkable contributions to the technical renovation and upgrading of traditional industries and the formation of new industries. It is also believed to have contributed a great deal to the sustainable development of economy and the highly improved innovation capacity. For more information please see:


2. 973 Program

Also known as National Basic Research Program, 973 Program was proposed in 1997 by the State Science and Education Steering Group, first formulated as “The National Plan on Key Basic Research and Development” and later it is implemented as the “National Program on Key Basic Research Project (973 Program)”. The purpose of these two initiatives was to strengthen basic research in line with national strategic targets. It is funded and administered by Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China. For more information please see:


3. 863 Program

This is also known as the State High-Tech Development Plan, 863 Program was proposed in 1986 to accelerate China’s high-tech development. The late Chinese leader Mr. Deng Xiaoping personally approved the National High-tech R&D Program. It is funded and administered by Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China. It is intended to stimulate the development of advanced technologies in a wide range of fields for the purpose of rendering China independent of financial obligations for foreign technologies. As one of the national science and technology program trilogy, 863 Program continues to play its important role supporting development and research of advanced technology. For more information please see:


4. The National Natural Science Fund

The National Natural Science Fund is run by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, which administers four programs, International Cooperation and Exchange Program, Research Fund for International Young Scientist, Research Program of National Major Research Instruments and Facilities, Programs of Joint Funds. For more information please see:


5. Research Programs Run by National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science

National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science administers state-level research programs in humanities and social sciences. For more information please see:

* http://www.npopss-cn.gov.cn/

6. Humanities and Social Sciences Research Programs Administered by Ministry of Education. For more information please see:

* http://www.sinoss.net/

Successful Application Tips

1. It is always best to continuously check all known sponsors for updates on calls and award information. Successful fund application first of all means a careful selection of grants available to you.

2. Once you have decided to apply for a project, try your best to learn every detail about it. One can never learn too much about a funding program. Useful details include but are not limited to the theme, history, form of organisation, funding sources, the nature of the fund, requirements and procedures, assessment criteria and procedures, aid intensity, consultation and evaluation experts, public announcement system, the channel of complaint, previous funding cases, annual application guide, contact information, application beginning date, deadline, application methods and formats, project evaluation and acceptance way, press releases, reward system and code of ethics.

3. Devote yourself to the writing of the proposal by including it into your daily routine. Start writing it as early as possible. Most state-run grants and regional grants are open annually on fixed dates, turning themselves as predictable events for applicants. Return to writing your proposal regularly and keep revising it. Add something new and better to your yearly research proposal as frequently as possible.

4. Make sure that your proposal contains innovative hypothesis and design. Raise good questions. Challenge yourself by learning from others. Furnish the proposal with improved and well thought out ideas. Edit your proposal meticulously to avoid errors of any kind.

5. When you feel exhausted of ideas, learn from international or domestic colleagues. Read widely not only about advances in your speciality but also about grant applications.

6. Relate how solid a foundation you and/or your team have laid for the proposed research. The assessment experts need to know that your team is in good working condition so be concrete about hardware details such as laboratory space and equipment, funding obtained, location, way of transportation, logistics and networks of communications.

7. Even more important are software resources including publications, inventions, patents, awards, honours, academic qualification, scientific training experience, academic exchanges and cooperation at home and abroad, team structure, personnel training, organisation, coordination, communication skills, research ethics and integrity, peer review, and so on.

8. Find a good university or institute to work in. It is probably not coincidence that all top-raising institutes as shown at the beginning of the article are those on the 985 list. A top fund-raising institute is usually armed with optimum atmosphere, highly supportive teams and resources at different layers. Up-to-date information about funding applications is easier to obtain, sometimes simply because you are working with people from the grant reviewing committee, and there can be numerous experienced fund raising individuals in these institutes.

9. Know where you are in the path of your career and to be confident about the kind of support you can get for the specific stage of your research. Major grant projects tend to welcome young scientists and researchers and usually include tailor-made programs for juniors.


* These websites are in Chinese only and to access the information you will need to use a translation tool.