Priority given to technology for energy and water resources China has vowed to shed its image as a world-class economy with poor homegrown high technology, and has set its sights on innovations in energy, environmental protection and national security industries in the next 15 years. President Hu Jintao spelt out the ambitious plan yesterday at the opening of a national conference on science and technology, the fourth such gathering since the founding of the People's Republic. 'Technological advancement has become the focus of international competition and the key to a country's modernisation drive,' he said in the nationally televised meeting in the Great Hall of the People. 'But as international practice has shown, the key technologies concerning the lifeline of the national economy and security cannot be purchased.' He said the country must pursue a path of science and technological innovation with Chinese characteristics, and concentrate on making breakthroughs in several key areas to improve the country's competitiveness. Among the areas listed as priorities, Mr Hu said technologies dealing with energy and water resources, and environmental protection should be developed first. Other key areas are information technology, biotechnology, hi-tech materials, aerospace and aviation. Mr Hu said despite some technological breakthroughs, notably the manned space missions and increases in grain production, China still lagged behind leading world powers in terms of innovation. 'China's overall scientific and technological level still cannot meet the requirements of its economic and social development in many fields,' he said. Mr Hu listed a dozen disadvantages which needed urgent attention, including the inadequate investment and poor management that torpedoed previous efforts to give more attention to innovation. The ratio of key homegrown technologies, especially in hi-tech fields, remained low and most Chinese enterprises lacked the innovative ability to compete internationally. 'In some key areas of industrial technology there remains a fairly high reliance on technology imports ... scientific research is not strong and top-notch talent is in short supply,' Mr Hu said. He promised China would create favourable financial and legal environments, and allocate resources to train first-class scientists and attract foreign and overseas Chinese talent. However, Mr Hu did not provide much detail on the incentives and measures he promised in his hour-long speech. He said the central government would issue a document later on the implementation of the new polices. Marking the significance of the three-day meeting, state media highlighted the event yesterday ahead of its opening, which was hailed by the People's Daily in a front-page editorial as the 'spring' of China's technological advancement and a milestone in its history. Xinhua said the last conference on technological and scientific policies was held 11 years ago and was presided over by Mr Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin .