Regional Innovation Profiles in China: Conditions for and Typologies of Innovation

In the past 15 years, the role of innovation in emerging economies has received increasing attention in the scientific community. Initially, most research focused on the transfer or relocation of selected innovation capacities of multinational corporations to economically emerging nations. However, further research on emerging economies has since demonstrated that these, too, can develop their own, regionally distinctive and globally successful innovation ecosystems.

Hence, the notion that the role of innovation in such economies was mostly that of adapting internationally already available high-end solutions requires further consideration. Beyond the measureable increase in innovation capacity as such, an increasingly more relevant question will be to understand to what extent emerging economies succeed in generating their own, particular, and globally unique variety of economic and societal innovations and which particular local and national and regional framework conditions are conducive to their emergence.

Based on existing research on innovation in emerging economies, the following differentiation between innovation processes will constitute a first framework for analyses:

  • Radical innovation focuses on conceptual novelty and the very first translation of new technological options into practically applicable solutions.

  • Adaptive innovation seeks to adjust existing solutions to a particular market environment without notably changing their technological basis.

  • Frugal innovation focuses on conceiving novel solutions tailored to customer’s most pressing needs from the outset, bearing in mind the limited means they have available.

Under what conditions particular regions develop capacities in one or several of these fields has so far not yet been explored in sufficient detail.

These and other issues will be explored in field studies in different provinces and cities of China in the coming 20 months. In the project partnership, Fraunhofer ISI will contribute through own analysis, empirical efforts and interviews as well as be supporting a Ph.D. student based at the Leibniz University of Hannover during his/her field research in China.

Financed by the DFG, this project primarily serves scientific purposes.

Based on the data and information collected in China, scientific papers will be published and contributions made to innovation research.

  • Field Research in China
  • Data Analysis




  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG


  • Prof. Liefner, Leibniz Universität Hannover