LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) -- China is set to become the world's most important centre for innovation by 2020, overtaking both the United States and Japan, according to a public opinion survey to be published on Monday.
China is already the world's second-largest economy, after establishing itself as the global workshop for manufacturing. Now it wants to move up the value chain by leading in invention as well.
Today, the United States ranks as the world's most innovative country, with 30 percent of people surveyed taking that view, followed by Japan on 25 percent and China on 14 percent.
Fast-forward 10 years, however, and 27 percent of people think China will be top dog, followed by India with 17 percent, the United States 14 percent and Japan 12 percent, according to the survey of 6,000 people in six countries done by drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The shift is not because the United States is doing less science and technology, but because countries like China and India are doing more — a fact reflected in a spike-up in successful Asian research efforts in recent years.
A study last month from Thomson Reuters showed China was now the second-largest producer of scientific papers, after the United States, and research and development (R&D) spending by Asian nations as a group in 2008 was $387 billion, compared with $384 billion in the United States and $280 billion in Europe.
Working out just how fast the world's new emerging market giants are developing their know-how is critical to many technology-focused companies in the West, as they seek to redeploy R&D resources.
The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, has been anxious to tap into China's science base and many companies, including AstraZeneca, have established Chinese centres as they try to reignite R&D productivity in laboratories at home.
The survey across Britain, the United States, Sweden, Japan, India and China found a strong sense of optimism amongst people living in China and India, in contrast to relative pessimism in the developed Western economies.
More than half of those in China and India thought their home countries would be the most innovative in the world by 2020, while just one in 20 Britons thought Britain would be able to claim this title.
There was an notable east-west divide in views of what had been the most important scientific breakthroughs. People in Asia put communications and computing top, while U.S. and European respondents placed equal importance on the invention of vaccines and antibiotics, the survey found.
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