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.