Tencent Celebrates Its 11th WE Summit with the Announcement of the “Digital Seed Bank”

BEIJING, Nov. 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On Oct. 28, the 2023 Tencent Science WE Summit was held in the Beijing Exhibition Centre. It is the 11th edition of the annual WE Summit and the first opportunity since 2019 for the event to open its doors for the general public to attend in person. Seven eminent scientists from China and abroad graced the stage as speakers. Among them were two academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), including Zhao Zhongxian, a founding father of China’s high temperature superconductivity research, and Qian Qian, Director-General of the National Crop Genebank of China (NCGC); and two Nobel laureates, Sir Andre Geim, “The Father of Graphene,” and the discoverer of the first known extrasolar planet, Didier Queloz. Other distinguished speakers included the pioneer of “Reticular Chemistry” Omar Yaghi, and leading biogerontology scientist and Vice President of the Royal Society Dame Linda Partridge. Additionally, the Summit was honored to host Jiang Lelun, the inventor of magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional matter. With such a distinguished panel of speakers, attendees had the rare opportunity to learn about significant scientific breakthroughs and discoveries in physics, material science, agriculture, life science, and more.

Themed “The Seed,” this year’s WE Summit paid tribute to those leading-edge scientific explorers throughout history who planted “seeds” that have allowed humanity to grow to the point where we are today.

Also, Tencent used the platform of the WE Summit to announce the creation of the Digital Seed Bank, which is being built at the Tencent Science and Technology Museum in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). It will display all 340 types of germplasm resources conserved at the NCGC in a digital, three-dimensional manner by utilizing digital scanning and 3D modeling. This charitable effort aims to help with agricultural research and acquaint the public with agricultural science. The entire plant growth cycle will be digitally displayed in a 3D context. This is also useful for scientists to conduct plant growth studies, optimize planting conditions, and breed new varieties.

The 11th WE Summit was live streamed on the Apps and official Weixin Channels accounts of many media outlets. It was also on nearly 50 other online platforms like Tencent Video, Bilibili, and Zhihu. On QQ Browser, the official search engine of the WE Summit, users can search “WE Summit” or other keywords of related scientific topics to access content and extensive scientific information related to this event. Search results will include scientific knowledge and questions & answers in the formats of texts, videos, images, and more.

Announcement to Build the Digital Seed Bank at Tencent Science and Technology Museum

“Over the past 11 years, the WE Summit has been committed to exploring how to utilize science to help us better understand our world and develop solutions to address climate change while building a resilient future”, emphasized David Wallerstein, Chief eXploration Officer of Tencent, “Humanity needs to apply technologies like Artificial Intelligence to continuously improve productivity in key areas and prevent waste, allowing people to tackle major challenges concerning the increasing scarcity of basic resources like ‘Food, Energy and Water.'”

Due to huge innovations over the past century, agricultural science has been a pillar supporting the balance between humanity and nature and contributing greatly to the stability and prosperity of human society. Qian Qian, a member of the CAS and the Director-General of the NCGC, reviewed China’s three technological leaps in rice breeding and the ground-breaking breakthroughs in increasing rice yield per unit. For example, led by the late academician of the CAS Yuan Longping, a team found “wild abortive” male sterile rice, and based on this, a group of scientists successfully solved problems of hybrid rice breeding and heterosis utilization. This great achievement led to a significant increase in rice yields and pioneered “the 2nd Green Revolution”, a great contribution to addressing food supply in China and other developing countries. “Germplasm innovation is essential to breeding,” said Qian Qian. “The key to today’s seed breeding success lies in the improvement of germplasm innovation and the integration of biologic and digital technologies, thus driving digitalized, intelligent development of breeding technology while translating China’s strength in germplasm resources into an advantage in breeding innovation.”

Germplasm resources are regarded as the core of agricultural development. NCGC is the world’s largest single national-class germplasm resource bank. Thanks to decades of collective efforts, it now contains 540,000 items of crop germplasm resources. In the Digital Seed Bank, there will also be dynamic, 3D displays of plant growth from germination to fruit of 10 types of crops, one of which is “Xiaowei,” also known as “Space Rice.” Visitors can utilize technology to observe plant growth at all stages, immersing themselves in decoding the secrets of seeds.

Following the “Human Tech Tree” program implemented last year, the Digital Seed bank is Tencent’s next initiative to popularize science among the general populace. In the future, it will be a core component of the permanent exhibition hall dedicated to Agricultural Sciences at the Tencent Science and Technology Museum. At last year’s WE Summit, Guo Kaitian, Senior Vice President of Tencent, announced that in its new headquarters in Shenzhen, Tencent was building a public science and technology museum where a “Human Tech Tree” will be constructed in partnership with leading scientific research institutions. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Convergence will be applied to the “Human Tech Tree” to systematically exhibit the great history and achievements of human science and technology over the past centuries. Utilizing four permanent exhibition halls themed Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and Medicine to explore branches of the “Human Tech Tree,” the Tencent Science and Technology Museum will be an open space for the public to have an immersive experience in the achievements of human science and technology.

Revolutionary Applications Led by Breakthroughs in Material Science

Revolutionary Applications Led by Breakthroughs in Material Science Superconductivity, which has been studied for more than a century now, has drawn wide public attention this year. Zhao Zhongxian, an academician of the CAS and former Director of the National Lab for Superconductivity, systematically explained the properties and values of superconductors during his presentation at the WE Summit. As a founding father of China’s high temperature superconductivity research, Zhao Zhongxian and his team have advanced global research on high-temperature superconductivity by making several scientific breakthroughs, among which are the independently  discoveries of copper oxide materials whose superconducting transitions breakthrough the temperature of liquid nitrogen (about -196°C) and serial iron-based superconductors with a maximum critical temperature of 55 Kelvin (-218°C). In 1962, humans began to apply superconductors in energy, information technology and health care. For example, superconducting fMRI has long been an important tool of medical examination. “Looking for superconductors at higher temperatures and exploring better applicable superconducting materials and technologies that will bring profound changes to human productivity and our lives,” Zhao Zhongxian pointed out.

Called “the most important material of the 21st century”, graphene has captured the imagination of people worldwide, ranging from scientists to the general public. Sir Andre Geim, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics and the “Father of Graphene”, described in his speech how he and his colleagues had discovered this one-atom-thick material using a simple technique called “tearing off by sellotape”. Remarkable properties of graphene soon became evident. Graphene is a million times thinner than a piece of paper, but 200 times stronger than steel on the nanometer scale. It can safely be said that it is the world’s thinnest and strongest material. At the same time, it is also as flexible and stretchable as rubber, gases and liquids cannot penetrate through it, and it conducts heat and electricity better than copper, and so on. It has been said that, “This material can help revolutionize many industries in the coming decades.” According to Geim, collaborating with Chinese researchers from Shenzhen, graphene can extract gold from a waste solution with a gold content of merely one-millionth of a percent. The resolution of videos of his experiments about graphene, magnetic levitation and gecko tape are digitally improved via the Tencent Media Lab’s Classic Video Restoration technology, building an immersive experience for spectators to feel the beauty of science.

While the life expectancy of human’s increasing, the morbidity rate of age-related diseases is increasingly higher. As a result, the question of how to slow aging is now a burgeoning research field. Dame Linda Partridge, a leading biogerontology scientist, has pointed out, “We can use drugs to prevent the harms of age-related diseases instead of carrying out medical treatment after such diseases occur.” Through animal dietary restriction experiments, she studied the basic mechanism and complicated process of ageing, covering genetic materials, cells, tissues and their interactions, and based on which, she explores how to restrict related genetic expression to slow ageing. She proposed an early intervention strategy using Rapamycin, which, by acting on targeted genes, effectively delays the onset of various age-related diseases. “We are not meant to extend life, but address health problems in the last years of life which is increasingly longer,” she clarified.

“People living in desert areas can use water harvesters, which run with no energy input aside from ambient sunlight, to get sufficient water for the daily demand of an entire family, thus reducing independence on water supply from tubes.”Omar Yaghi, the pioneer of “Reticular Chemistry”, shared his continuing innovations and practices based on his inventions of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) in 1995 and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) in 2005. Harvesting water from desert air utilizing these highly porous materials is one such example. Under his direction, a team designed the first ever MOF-based device to harvest water in low relative humidity environments. His tests in the Mojave Desert, the driest place in North America, show that a MOF material-empowered water harvester can produce 1.0 liter of water per cycle per day. Now, one ton of MOF will produce 750 liters of water per cycle. This technology is being commercialized and is being utilized to significantly mitigate the water stress in the world.

“Do we see life starting today? No, actually we don’t. We see life repeating.” Didier Queloz, the winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the first known exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, orbiting a Sun-like star, shared his method of space observation and progressive research, exemplified by the continuous development of astronomical instruments and the discovery of thousands of exoplanets. “We hunt for and study planetary systems like the earth through measuring an exoplanet’s size, mass and temperature and analyzing its atmosphere.” He further explained the value of exoplanet research for us to understand the origin of life on Earth, based on major life evolution on Earth. “4 billion years ago, chemical reactions on the earth’s surface generated matter that could, and did, lead to the origin of life. When life occurred, their chemical functions and reactions began to impact the earth. However, the earth today does not have the conditions for the transformation from matter to life.” Studying other planets and the origin of life can help us find answers about how life started on earth.

Jiang Lelun, professor at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Sun Yat-Sen University, showed the magnetoactive solid-liquid phase transitional matter (MSLPTM) developed by his team. With mixed properties of both solid and liquid metal, MSLPTM is highly rigid and loadable when it is in its solid state and is as flexible as water when in a liquid state. Professor Jiang’s team was inspired by the sci-fi movie Magneto, and learned that we can control not only its phase transition via temperature adjustment, but also its movement, transformation, separation and combination. Quoting Jiang Lelun, “We have demonstrated that MSLPTM and robots made from such material can be applied in the fields of biomedicine and industrial manufacturing sectors. Under wireless magnetic field control, such a miniature robot is able to go through our body and implement medical operations like medicine delivery and foreign matter removal, etc.” 

Over the past decade, the WE Summit has been committed to communicating the most significant scientific findings and the latest scientific thoughts to the general public. Ninety-four leading scientists from the global science community have spoken at this event, such as Stephen Hawking, Sir Roger Penrose, Pan Jianwei and Andrew Chi-Chih Yao. Their topics have ranged from cosmology and theoretical physics to life science, earth science, aeronautics and astronautics, information technology, intelligent manufacturing and many others. In total, the annual WE Summit has engaged the public almost 100 million times, either online or offline.

2023 Tencent Science WE Summit

2023 marks the first year of the second decade of the WE Summit. In addition to its endeavors in basic scientific research, Tencent hopes to increase awareness in the public and industries as to the huge potential of science in improving productivity.

On Oct. 29, 2023, the Tencent Industrial Science and Technology Conference debuted at the Beijing Exhibition Centre. Representatives from leading companies in sectors such as intelligent manufacturing, aeronautics and astronautics, and intelligent agriculture shared their breakthroughs and practices in industrial technologies, thus showcasing China’s cutting-edge initiatives in the integration of industry and technology.