A 76-year-old wheat scientist was awarded China's top science and technology prize yesterday for his contribution to the country's food security, state media reported. Li Zhensheng received the State Scientific and Technological Award from President Hu Jintao at an awards ceremony in the Great Hall of People in Beijing, Xinhua reported. Dr Li was also handed a cheque for 5 million yuan at the ceremony - 500,000 yuan for himself and 4.5 million for his research, Xinhua said. 'Science and technology plays a fundamental role in the country's modernisation process,' Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech at the ceremony, adding the working and living conditions of scientists should be improved. Dr Li, born in 1931 in eastern Shandong province , is a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Over a career spanning 55 years, Dr Li had developed a series of hybrid wheat strains which helped boost the country's crop production by more than 50 million tonnes, Xinhua said. The country's top technology prize for 2006 went to a third-generation fighter aircraft project. The Jian-10, developed by China Aviation Industry Corp I after seven years of work, 'marks a breakthrough in China's heavy fighter aircraft industry', according to Xinhua. Military observers say the Jian-10 has not matched the performance of US fourth-generation fighter aircraft, but its design and equipment are comparable to mainstream fighter aircraft in the west. This year's award winners also included workers and farmers. An employee of Shanghai Baosteel Group, one from FAW-Volkswagen and an entrepreneurial farmer from central Henan province shared second prize for an innovation award. Innovations from private enterprises accounted for more than 30 per cent of prize winners, Xinhua said. The State Scientific and Technological Award was launched in 2000. Ten Chinese scientists have received the top prize of 5 million yuan, including atmospheric physicist Ye Duzheng , liver and gall doctor Wu Mengchao , hybrid rice developer Yuan Longping , mathematician Wu Wenjun and IT expert Wang Xuan .