Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures

test tubes with coloured labels

State strategies of governance in global biomedical innovation: the impact of China and India

Project details

Discipline: Political Science
Funded Period: 01 August 2012 – 30 September 2015
Rising powers: China, India


Innovation in biomedicine is a global enterprise with an increasingly important contribution being made by the Rising Powers, especially China and India. The crucial importance accorded to biomedicine amongst the core contemporary concerns of the Rising Power governments as well as that of the UK cannot be doubted. Emerging innovations in biomedicine internationally hold the promise of significant impact on global public health, healthcare systems and economic restructuring. However, the policy directions and institutional configurations for fully exploiting the scientific and innovation efforts on the global stage are currently unclear and unstable. National and international innovation in biomedicine challenges conventional modes of governance, including industry structures, sector organisation, and geographical locations.

As governments search for ways of fostering innovation, so they are obliged to recognise that governance intervention at the level of the individual state is but one component in the political equation that needs to be matched by policies that deal with the international character of biomedical innovation. The complexity of biomedical innovation is a product not only of the global character of the governance domains in question but also of its opaque nature. For novel fields of biomedicine, the knowledge production process from the basic science, through clinical experimentation and trials, to the therapeutic product is long, arduous and uncertain. At all stages in that process, there exists a potential triangle of tensions between science, society and the market: the science may prove to be inadequate, society unsympathetic or the market uninterested. In terms of our understanding of this process, there is at present no single area of social science that can lay exclusive claim to the analysis of the governance problem faced by states concerned with the promotion of biomedical innovation.

Research aims

The aim of this research is to examine the nature and impact of China and India’s strategies on the governance of biomedical innovation at national, regional and global levels and the implications for UK policy. Medical biotechnology is a government priority in the UK, which claims a world-leading position in several sectors. Policy priorities and the design of the present research were debated in a high-level workshop with UK policy makers who endorsed the research. Two priority fields of medical biotechnology are investigated, each focused around two case studies of substantive biomedical/economic activity: Regenerative Medicine (Stem cell research; Tissue-engineered wound care); and Stratified/Personalised Medicine (Bioinformatics; Pharmacogenomics). These areas of scientific research and development of products promise to revolutionise healthcare globally, and respond to major public health needs. The ‘Rising Powers’, especially China and India, are becoming increasingly influential in these fields, and national governments, regulators, scientific institutions, industry actors and other stakeholders are moving to develop new strategies to maintain and improve their positions in the global biomedical economy. At the same time, the increasing use of ‘bio’ science and technology and the development of complex biosocial databases and human cell banks (‘biobanks’) for therapeutic exploitation raise a host of ethical, social and legal issues which different societies approach in very different ways.

The research draws together concepts from disciplines of political science, innovation studies, and sociology of biomedicine and healthcare, to provide a new evidence base of these emerging developments. Building on the platform of an ESRC Rising Powers Network project, the research focuses on relations between India, China and the UK, in the global context of US, EU and South East Asian scientific and economic influence. Focusing on the four case studies, the research will:

  1. Describe the primary components and directions of China and India’s innovation policies, strategies and actions
  2. Analyse how these strategies align with or depart from those employed by the developed economies of the UK, EU, North America, and Japan
  3. Assess the extent to which the Rising Powers strategies engage with, challenge or confirm existing cross-cutting regional and global governance institutions and actions in both private and public spheres
  4. Evaluate the implications for UK policy around these priority strands of biomedical economy and health policy

The research uses a combination of research and policy analysis methods, comprising secondary analysis of quantitative datasets, primary fieldwork data collection (interviews, observation of conferences) in the UK, India and China. Data collected will include: patent/intellectual property trends; standard-setting activity; investment trends; ‘private’ regulatory initiatives such as via professional associations or scientific networks; formal regulatory initiatives; modes and content of patient and public engagement with governance processes; public policy visions of future healthcare. Throughout the research, policymakers in the UK and Rising Powers countries will be involved in debating the research through a series of expert workshops. Similarly, public/patients forums will be convened in the UK to provide involvement of these stakeholder groups. The research team will advance the theory of global biomedical innovation by aligning political science theory of states’ competitive and cooperative global interaction with sociological/innovation studies’ analysis of how emerging medico-economic sectors emerge and stabilise. This theoretical work will be of broader application, beyond the substantive field of medical biotechnology. The substantive findings of the research will inform UK policy for medical biotech innovation for developing the healthcare of the future.

Project team

Principal Investigator

Professor Brian Salter, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London (brian.g.salter@kcl.ac.uk).

Other members of the core team

Dr Alex Faulkner, Co-Investigator, University of Sussex
Dr Stuart Hogarth, Co-Investigator, Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London
Dr Yinhua Zhou, Research Associate, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
Ms Saheli Datta, Research Coordinator and PhD Researcher, Department of Political Economy and King’s India Institute, King’s College London

Visiting Fellows

Dr Vincenzo Pavone, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
Dr Rakhi Rashmi, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
Dr Maki Umemura, Lecturer, Cardiff Business School
Dr Haidan Chen, Lecturer, China Agricultural University, Beijing

Visiting PhD Researchers

Ms Maria Sharmila Alina de Sousa, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London

Overseas Project Partners

Professor Pranav Desai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Professor M Ramesh, National University of Singapore, Singapore



  • Edison Bicudo (2014) Pharmaceutical Research, Democracy and Conspiracy. International Clinical Trials in Local Medical Institutions. Ashgate. Foreword by Professor Brian Salter.

Peer Review Journals





  • Salter B and Salter C (2013). Bioethical ambition, political opportunity and the European governance of patenting: the case of human embryonic stem cell science. Social Science and Medicine 98: 286-292.
  • Salter B (2013). Governing innovation paths in regenerative medicine: the European and global struggle for political advantage. In Webster A (ed). The Global dynamics of regenerative Medicine: A social science critique Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Faulkner A. (2013) Biomedical techniques and innovation. In WC. Cockerham, R. Dingwall, SR Quah (eds),The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society, Oxford.
  • Faulkner, A. (2013) Medical Technology. In Gabe J., Monaghan L. (eds.) Key Concepts in Medical Sociology, 2nd ed.Sage Publications.
  • Tomlin Z, Faulkner A, Peirce S, Elwyn G. (2013) Technology identity: the role of sociotechnical representations in the adoption of medical devices. Social Science & Medicine.
  • Morrison, M., Hogarth, S., & Kewell, B. (2013). Biocapital and Innovation Paths: The Exploitation of Regenerative Medicine. The Global Dynamics of Regenerative Medicine: A Social Science Critique, 58.
  • Brian Salter, Yinhua Zhou, Saheli Datta (2013).  ‘The political economy of the global stem cell therapy market’. Forthcoming in Regenerative Medicine May 2014.
  • Alex Faulkner (2013) ‘Data storms and fishing trips: bioinformatics in the engine-room of genomic global health policy’.
  • Salter B and Salter C (2013). Bioethical ambition, political opportunity and the European governance of patenting: the case of human embryonic stem cell science. Social Science and Medicine. 98: 286-292.

Principal investigator Professor Brian Salter discusses the project 'State strategies of governance in global biomedical innovation: the impact of China and India'.