Supporting People-Focused, Innovation-driven Development in Chongqing City

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The Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB) is considered as one of the three key growth engines to ensure economic development in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

With support from CDIA, Chongqing City in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River is pursuing a development path where human capital and technological innovations are driving green and inclusive industrial transformation.

Chongqing’s economy has been dominated by large scale, resource-dependent and inefficient heavy industries since the 1960s. In recent years, the city has been progressing below its potential at significant social and environmental costs.

To survive in a rapidly growing and environmentally-sensitive economy in PRC, Chongqing needs to shift from a low-value and polluting economy to a high-quality, green, and knowledge-based diversified economy.

It also needs to create an “innovation ecosystem” that will help make its society and economy sustainable and resilient. By nurturing the human capital of companies, governments and academia, the city can respond to the rapidly evolving demands of its diversified industries.

In 2017, CDIA was requested by the Chongqing Municipal Government to do a project preparation study (PPS) in line with the proposed loan on YREB Chongqing Green Transformation Project, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

CDIA conducted sector and technical assessments, and helped to enhance project conceptualization. It also organized a three-day capacity development workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship, which led to the formulation of potential school- and economic-zone subprojects.

Midway into the PPS, the project title was changed to Chongqing Innovation and Human Capital Development Project to align with the ADB Country Strategy 2030, which underscores the importance of broader non-structural components and innovation. Based on the CDIA workshop, the project was further upgraded from a mere technological innovation-driven approach to include human capital innovation.

“How to make innovation happen? Only through the people,” said Zhang Yu, CDIA’s Senior Urban Infrastructure Specialist for China. “Project owners must go beyond the structural components to consider the proper mechanisms for making innovations happen. The value of this project then lies in the systematic thinking of what and who drives innovation and enriching these elements,” she explained.

At the conclusion of the CDIA PPS, seven sub-projects were recommended with human capital development at the core of the interventions. These constitute developing new programs and courses, introducing innovation, and strengthening entrepreneurial program at the institutional level. Five educational institutions and two Economic and Technology Development Areas (ETDA) in Chongqing will be involved as sub-project owners. The proposed outputs and sub-projects are as follows:

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CDIA’s support further encompassed developing or revising their respective concepts, analyzing particular conditions of each educational institution and industrial park/ETDA, and providing broader perspective on technology and innovation.

It also provided continuous communication and idea influencing, which led to the shift in project orientation from a simple provision of additional buildings and innovation workshops to a more holistic and integrative approach to developing or attracting talents on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Only by investing in people can a healthier innovation ecosystem be made that will effectively encourage local talents to imbibe a more entrepreneurial and innovation spirit,” Zhang Yu emphasized.

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