"During my career in the UK I probably wrote 200 grant applications and was lucky enough to have around 50 funded. It accounted for at least 10 percent of my scientific life, a time when I did nothing but ask for money. I have no desire to return to that pattern of activity," he said.
In April, the UK citizen was appointed head of an overseas academicians' "master workshop", financed by Zhejiang University, for five years. Five academicians－plant biologists from the United States, New Zealand and France－are the other members of the group.
When it comes to the future of the Chinese research environment, Chen said the country has done reasonably well in recent years, but work is still needed to provide all researchers, not just the most successful, with a creative and stimulating working environment.
Last year, the government of Shanghai relaxed many policies related to applications for permanent residency, or China's "green card".
To deepen the pool of overseas talent, the government removed a ban on applications from people who worked in certain sectors. It also stopped assessing candidates strictly on their work ranking and length of residence, and scrapped its upper age limit of 60.
Beijing quickly followed suit, implementing a system under which applicants can accumulate points in accordance with their educational status, length of service in China and the sectors in which they work.
Applicants must accrue 70 points before they can be recommended for residency.
More than 1,500 permanent residency cards were issued last year, according to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration at the Ministry of Public Security. More than 900,000 expats worked in China during the same period, according to the foreign experts' administration.
While Tamura has permanent residence, Chen said he would consider applying if he could find a position where his knowledge and experience were valued and used to maximum effect, and if his family enjoyed the lifestyle.
"For a country like China, I think it is important to create a policy and environment to attract and retain talent, since experts are critical capital for future development," he said.
"I am pretty open to different options. The most important thing is to make a greater contribution in a role that is needed in China and which suits me at the same time."