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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details

Wang, Y., Sutherland, D., Ning, L. & Pan, X. (2015). The evolving nature of China's regional innovation systems: Insights from an exploration–exploitation approach. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 100: 140-152.

Author(s) from Durham


The regional innovation systems (RISs) approach has become influential in analysis of innovation processes and the development of public policy. Much of the contemporary RIS literature, however, has adopted a structural, functional, effectiveness or triple helix analytical approach. This study enriches our understanding of RISs in East Asia by considering an alternative novel perspective at the RIS level: an exploration–exploitation approach. Though often used at the firm-level, we argue that it may also provide an alternative lens through which to understand the evolution of China's RISs. To this end we construct a provincial entropy index and use K-means to categorize provinces into explorative, exploitative and balanced RISs and their evolution between 1986 and 2011. Our findings contribute to the literature on China's RISs by illustrating in greater detail the persistence of certain RISs across many of China's provinces, as well as the dramatic step changes towards exploitative systems in others.