Transformative Innovation Policy: A Case-study from China

Alan Irwin, Tara Qian Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Science, technology and innovation policy has been presented as developing through three“frames”: innovation for growth; national systems of innovation; and transformative change (Schot and Steinmueller, 2018). In this paper, we focus on the third frame by exploring the development of transformative innovation policy in China. More specifically, we present a case analysis of the Beautiful China Initiative (BCI). Within this context, we analyse participating actors, activities, and modes of innovation. In conclusion, we discuss three general challenges of transformative innovation policy at a national and international level. The first challenge is coordination and interaction between governmental agencies and other actors with different responsibilities and jurisdictions. Second, there is a major set of issues related to “development”, which must encompass economic development but also societal and environmental development. Third, BCI fits with a broad understanding of the innovation process, including elements which are not directly commercial in orientation. Whether this broader approach can be maintained as BCI develops from its still-early stage into full development will represent a significant challenge. Finally in this paper, we consider the implications of our discussion for future research and practice, and offer three reflections. In particular, we emphasise the importance of scholars’ participation across the social sciences rather than leaving this multi-faceted area only to innovation researchers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInnovation and Development Policy
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Transformative innovation
  • Innovation policy
  • China
  • Environmental challenges

Cite this