On 6-7 October 2016, the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme hosted a thematic workshop to discuss the roles of rising powers in shaping global innovation. Our policy brief summarises the findings and practical implications that come out of different projects under the ESRC programme working on the theme of innovation.
Overall, the research findings discussed at the workshop underline that the Rising Powers, such as China, India, and Russia, represent one of the key drivers of global economic and social change today. Notwithstanding recent short-run fluctuations in economic growth, these Rising Powers are becoming increasingly important players in global innovation. Non-Western models of innovation challenge Western approaches to research and development in some areas, but also offer opportunities for research cooperation and technology transfer.
The emergence of Rising Powers as global players in key technologies, but also the need to look more closely at the differences between them, can be seen from the findings of our project on Innovation Systems Development in China and Russia. Both China and Russia have undergone periods of market reform and developed new strategic goals for their innovation policies that show some parallels, for instance in the field of nanotechnology. Despite these similarities China appears to be more clearly on a path to becoming a world-leading country on innovation than Russia. For the UK, innovation developments in China, as well as in other Rising Powers countries, can present new collaboration opportunities although they also heighten competition for leadership and global market success in emerging and advanced technologies.
This is also apparent from the research presented by our project at King’s College London on state strategiesof governance in global biomedical innovation in China and India. The emergence of bioinformatics, meaning tools that make biology legible with the help of computer science, is changing the way science works. This opens new opportunities for Rising Power countries to establish themselves in this new territory. Western models of innovation have dominated global research on bioinformatics, but increasing engagement of Rising Powers such as China and India in the area of bioinformatics could challenge established norms and practices of research in Western countries. Effective regulation of biomedical research in the UK needs to take into account stem cell therapy in countries such as China and India, different emerging national and international governance approaches for innovation, as well as data and incentives issues.
Finally, looking beyond the Rising Powers’ impact on developed country innovation systems, their investment in innovation offers opportunities for South-South technology transfer and addressing key global development challenges such as climate change. Our project based at SOAS explores these dynamics in its comparativestudy of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia. Findings show that Chinese investment into low carbon energy in developing countries offers opportunities for technology transfer and mitigation of climate change. In addition, its development impact could be further enhanced by strengthening social safeguards and environmental impact assessments.
Watch the video on the project’s findings
As a collection, our projects show that the Rising Powers’ engagement in innovation has a profound impact beyond their borders, both in the UK and globally. Within the UK, policies on research and innovation need to take innovation dynamics in countries such as China, Russia, and India into account to be effective. Globally, innovation and technology transfer from the Rising Powers has the potential to address key policy challenges such as climate change, provided that social and economic side effects of South-South investment projects are dealt with effectively.
For more details, please refer to the full thematic policy brief on ‘How do Rising Powers shape Global Innovation?‘ produced by the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme.
For a more general overview of the findings of all 12 research projects under the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme, please have a look at our briefing on ‘How do Rising Powers Drive Global Change?‘.