Applied Materials comes to XiAn

Clean energy R&D finds a home in China

CAP has sent a cohort of their experts into the field to China to study the rapidly expanding Chinese efforts to support clean energy R&D, innovation, manufacturing, and deployment. At one of their first stops on the tour, Julian Wong and Sarah Miller document how and why Serious Materials, a titan of Silicon Valley Innovation, has chosen to locate its new solar energy R&D facility in Xi’An province, instead of California.

(YouTube version)

Applied Materials, a prominent Silicon Valley technology firm that has been the leading maker of equipment to the semiconductor chip industry since the early 1990s, captured industry headlines when it announced the opening of the world’s largest nongovernmental solar research and development center in China and relocated its chief technology officer, Mark Pinto, from California to Beijing. And then The New York Times published a prominent profile of the new R&D center just last month.

So we hopped a two-hour flight from Beijing on Friday to visit Applied Materials’ new facility, which consists of a center for research and development, engineering, product demonstration, testing, and training for thin film and crystalline solar module manufacturing equipment and processes. It’s located not in Beijing or Shanghai, but in Xi’An, home to the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and about 8 million people””a midsize city by Chinese standards.

Shaanxi Province is one of China’s biggest coal mining areas, but Xi’An, the provincial capital, is becoming a cradle of clean energy technology development. It boasts 47 universities, more than any other Chinese city except Beijing and Shanghai, and this provides a strong source of human capital for its new High-Tech Zone.

We sat down with General Manager of Applied Materials’ Solar Technology Center Dr. Ruiping Wang during our visit to talk about other elements that make Xi’An, and China in general, attractive as the site of its solar research and development efforts.

Excerpts of the interview are in the video above.

Julian L. Wong is  a Senior Policy Analyst for the energy policy team and Sarah Miller is the Policy Advisor to President and CEO John Podesta.

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6 Responses to Applied Materials comes to XiAn

  1. fj2 says:

    Nice interview and post despite being low on details.

    Surface discussion of achievements and strategies:

    Guns into plowshares as Applied Materials’ original business was for the military now civilian use.

    High investment in human capital with lots of universities

    Government support for infrastructure and clean energy strategies in photovoltaic (pv) and light emitting diode (led) technologies.

    Indication that the government is trying to establish a large national and multinational research and development center for clean energy.

    No mention of nanotechnologies also of the materials science field with the potential for being disruptively positive game-changers leading to dramatic built environment and clean energy developments on the scale of the electronics, computer and communications revolutions; with typically dramatic economic potential.

  2. Herman Leben says:

    Moving green jobs to China. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. John McCormick says:

    China is the world’s source of rare earth metals, some of which are essential components of “green technologies”, computer hard drives, cell phones, etc. China is also reducing global access to its rare earth metals and processed oxides and intends to use these vital resources for domestic production of finished products which the world will have to purchase. That will include wind turbines and cfcs and leds.

    It is no mystery why “green tech” companies are locating to China. That is how they will acquire the materials needed to build their products. The interviewer should have touched upon this or at least explore it before the team leaves China.

    John McCormick

  4. df3 says:

    But all we have to do is put a $15 price on carbon, and then we will be good to go–right?

  5. Eric says:

    “Serious Materials?”

    Anyway, Applied materials has a pretty neat vision for solar, see

    Just need some money and some cities to bite ….

  6. jean says:

    So, turn your back on your own country, because you can get engineers for $730/month….well, you get what you pay for.