China’s Transformative Innovation Policy for Sustainable Development: Linking Theory and Practice



Project description and rationale

With rapid economic development, China faces grand challenges such as unemployment, poverty, social inequality, and environmental pollution. These grand challenges need to be addressed through innovative innovation policies. Based on the three frameworks provided by the TIPC project, this research firstly introduces the historical evolution and the current trends of China’s innovation policy and analyzes their corresponding characteristics under the three frameworks. Secondly, this study investigates China’s experience through two case studies (Sci-tech special commissioner, Internet + entrepreneurship). Furthermore, it explores the challenges and opportunities of implementing transformative innovation policy in China.

The implementation period of this research project is 2018-2020.


We employ the case studies as the research design but further traces the institutional and historical background of China’s STI policy. This study has collected data from a variety of approaches, including accessing secondary data, conducting seminars and interviews with different stakeholders from the government departments, universities, research institutions and enterprises. The respondents include the policymakers, researchers and practitioners. The collected data aims to investigate the implementation practices of innovation policies, and the stakeholders’ perceptions of the further role that innovation policies have to play to manage the grand challenges facing by China.


  1. After analysing the historical evolution of China’s innovation policy since 1978, we conclude that China’s past and current innovation policies have predominantly based on the framework 1 and 2. However, there are certain elements of framework 3 also emerging, which directly targets the social and environmental problems.
  2. The current reforming targets of China’s STI policy is to improve the efficiency of the national system of innovation, to increase the innovative performance through the R&D investment and commercialisation of scientific and technological achievements, to promote the higher quality economic development further.
  3. It is anticipated that framework 1 and framework 2 will remain the mainstream of China’s innovation policy in the short term. However, even with the framework 1 and 2, there are many innovation policy practices which are consistent with the goals of framework 3.
  4. The main challenges in the future perhaps are how to combine the three different policy aims and policy practices in a smooth way. Moreover, it would be a big challenge for the policy practices to be adapted and embedded into heterogeneous local contexts, considering the geographical differences of the innovation capabilities and the grand challenges facing in the different regions across the whole China, as a country with various regional social, economic and environmental circumstances.

CASTED: Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development

He Guangxi, Yang Xinmeng, Shi Changhui, Lu Yangxu, Chen Zhi

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