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Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20

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Technological Forecasting & Social Change

The more interactions the better? The moderating effect of the

interaction between local producers and users of knowledge on the
relationship between R&D investment and regional innovation systems
Hao Jiao a, Jianghua Zhou b,⁎, Taishan Gao c, Xielin Liu d
Business School, Beijing Normal University, No. 19, XinJie Kou Wai Street, Beijing 100875, China
Business School, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
Informatization Institute of State Information Center, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Under the fierce pressures of the rapidly changing environments, regional innovation systems are important in
Received 13 March 2015 regional economy and national competitiveness. This study examines how R&D Investment from firms, univer-
Received in revised form 24 March 2016 sities and research institutes (Core component of Triple Helix Innovation) helps build regional innovation sys-
Accepted 25 March 2016
tems and its contingencies in China's emerging economy. A panel dataset from thirty provincial level regions
Available online 8 April 2016
in China from 2002 to 2011 indicates R&D investment from firms, universities and research institutes is an impor-
tant driver of regional innovation systems. The effectiveness of R&D Investment is contingent on the interaction
Regional innovation systems between local producers and users of knowledge. When the interaction between local producers and users of
R&D investment from firms knowledge becomes increasingly active, R&D investment from firms, universities and research institutes has a
R&D investment from universities and research stronger effect on the building of regional innovation system. Moreover, the interaction between local producers
institutes and users of knowledge has an inverted U-shaped relationship with the building of regional innovation systems.
The interaction between local producers and © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
users of knowledge

1. Introduction China's economy. Moreover, the increasing globalization of markets,

characterized by turbulence and uncertainty, has changed the competi-
Regional innovation systems is defined as an interactive learning en- tive environment of most companies drastically, not only on foreign
gagement among a network of various actors underpinned by an insti- markets but also on their domestic market where they are confronted
tutional framework with embeddedness since the early 1990s (Cooke, with intensive price, time and quality competition (Jiao et al., 2013;
1992). They play important roles in regional sustainable development. Teece, 2007). To stay competitive they have to restructure their busi-
In detail, the concept of regional innovation systems was developed ness organization and collaborate with the government, universities
and divided into two parts: the regional production structure or knowl- and research institutes, including innovation activities as well as
edge exploitation subsystem which consists mainly of firms, and the re- consumer and supplier relationships (Dosi, 1988; Li, 2012). This kind
gional supportive infrastructure or knowledge generation subsystem of need leads to urgent requirements for building regional innovation
which consists of public and private research laboratories, universities systems.
and colleges, technology transfer agencies, vocational training organiza- Many scholars conduct research on how to build regional innovation
tions, and other research organizations (Autio, 1998). systems with perspectives from different disciplines, such as the institu-
To some degree, the whole system is important for the regional tion perspective (Freeman, 1995; X. Li, 2009), interactive learning
economy not only in developed countries but also in emerging countries perspective (Lundvall, 2009), knowledge management perspective
(Cooke et al., 1998; Leydesdorff and Zhou, 2014). Recently, Chinese (Asheim and Coenen, 2005; Asheim and Isaksen, 2002), systematic per-
President Xi Jinping called for the integrated and coordinated develop- spective (Liu and White, 2001), and co-evolution perspective (Hekkert
ment of Beijing and the two neighboring provincial areas during a sym- et al., 2007). These studies adopt a holistic approach, emphasizing the
posium after listening to work reports delivered by officials from structures of innovation systems, the institutions within the system, as
Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei provinces. The Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region's well as the interactions and linkages among the institutional actors.
coordinated development of the Bohai Bay area will be an engine for This approach allows for the inclusion of organizational, social, and po-
litical factors, as well as economic ones (Hsu et al., 2013). However,
⁎ Corresponding author. these perspectives also have weaknesses. One example of the weak-
E-mail addresses: (H. Jiao), (J. Zhou). nesses is that they do not indicate what exactly should be included in
0040-1625/© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
14 H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20

an innovation system, and they do not specify the boundaries of the sys- plays a leading role in the construction of regional innovation systems.
tem. As a result, it is important to increase the rigor and specificity of the In the process of technological innovation, firms will respond quickly
regional innovation system approach by clarifying the key components and timely to meet the demands of rapidly changing environments.
as well as the relations among them, and specifying the boundaries of Based on market signals and internal plans, they can reorganize factors
regional innovation systems, so as to provide the micro-foundations of production in line with the needs of the market.
for further research in this field. In China, the role of firms in economic development and regional
Based on the research on innovation systems, the Triple Helix model innovation has always been emphasized. Therefore, the firms' in-
emphasizes interactions among the institutions to drive regional inno- vestment in science and technology has obvious effects on regional
vation systems (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1997, 2000; Rho, 2014). innovation systems. Because market competition is strong, firms
Taking into account the Triple Helix model, it functions as a facilitator need to formulate the development plan of science and technology
to support the development of local innovation (Ivanova and by themselves, conduct continuous investment in science and tech-
Leydesdorff, 2014; Phillips, 2014). Following the narrow definition of nology, and determine development strategies to guide the behavior
regional innovation systems (Asheim and Gertler, 2005; Etzkowitz of different subsidiaries.
and Leydesdorff, 2000), we want to explore the mechanisms of different Therefore, in light of the above logic and empirical evidence, this
patterns of R&D investment from firms, universities and research insti- study hypothesizes:
tutes (Core component of Triple Helix Innovation Model) on the build-
ing of regional innovation systems in the context of China, with the H1. Firms' R&D investment is positively related to the building of regional
moderating effect of the interaction between local producers and innovation systems.
users of knowledge.
Universities and research institutes play an important role in
The paper is organized as follows: Section two introduces key
the process of regional innovation development. Cooke (2002) found
hypotheses on different channels of R&D investment from firms,
that the success of biotechnology clusters in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
universities and research institutes. Moreover, their influences on the
USA and Cambridge, England depended on exceptionally strong
building of regional innovation systems are the focus of our analysis.
supporting infrastructures complementing strong local science bases
Section three details the methodology of our study, describing the con-
(Cooke, 2002). Therefore, the organizational innovation supporting
ceptual design, and the data collection and analysis. Section four pre-
infrastructure in a given region is clearly necessary to promote firms'
sents the evidence from our analysis, identifying the key influential
technological innovation.
factors in building regional innovation systems. Section five concludes,
Following Autio (1998), the regional innovation systems can be
highlighting some policy implications of our findings.
divided into two key sub-systems: the knowledge application and
exploitation subsystem and the knowledge generation and diffusion
2. Development of hypotheses subsystem (Autio, 1998). Public organizations such as universities and
research institutes are mainly engaged in knowledge generation, and
As is well known, in order to improve a firm's competitive advan- technology transfer agencies. Regional and local governance bodies
tage, the government pays more attention to independent innovation are responsible for innovation support practices. Therefore, the impor-
of different regions in China. According to innovation system theory tance of knowledge generation from universities and research institutes
(Lundvall, 2009; Nelson, 1993), various organizations — firms, universi- has increasingly been acknowledged and stressed and university and
ties, research institutes and technology transfer agencies interact with research institutes, in particular, are seen as crucial for assisting local
one another in a systematic way and jointly contribute to the build-up firms in their innovation activities (Diez, 2000).
of innovation capacity. Therefore, the following factors are, among Based on the preceding rationale, the hypothesis regarding the
others, regarded as critical in determining the innovation capacity of building of regional innovation systems is stated as below.
regional innovation systems: (1) The innovation effort contributed by
each of the major innovation actors including firms, universities and
H2. R&D investment from universities and research institutes is positively
research institutes; (2) the interactions among the actors in the innova-
related to the building of regional innovation systems.
tion process.
A conceptual framework formulated in this way is consistent The current research indicates that regional and external innovation
with the previous studies. Therefore, we will explore the role of firms, interaction among firms and other innovation organizations are impor-
universities and research institutes and the interaction between local tant for regional innovation promotion in biotechnology clusters in
producers and users of knowledge on building regional innovation sys- Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and Cambridge, England (Cooke,
tems. In developed countries, the research and development of firms 2002). Network links among actors of firms, universities and research

Fig. 1. The conceptual model.

H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20 15

institutes are pronounced, with cooperation on research and services H5. The stronger the interaction between local producers and users of
both nationally and regionally, between the public and private sectors. knowledge, the stronger the impact of R&D investment from university
Communication levels among key actors are effective with high quality. and research institute on building regional innovation systems.
Moreover, the role of innovation networking of the most important in-
novation actors was explored, namely manufacturing firms, producer The conceptual model is illustrated here. (See Fig. 1.)
service firms, and research institutes in promoting regional innovation
systems by employing data from European Regional Innovation Survey 3. Method
(Diez, 2002). The result indicates that research institutes play a sig-
nificant role in assisting innovation processes in manufacturing 3.1. Data collection
firms, and spatial proximity of cooperation partners is important,
confirming the concept of territorially based systems of innovation. With the analysis above, this paper studies the impact of innovation
The Triple Helix model of university–industry–government relations efforts contributed by disparate organizational types and the links
encourages the dynamic interactions among institutional spheres to between them on the performance of regional innovation systems. In
support regional innovation (Khan and Park, 2012; Leydesdorff and order to encapsulate both the time-variant and other variables, this
Etzkowitz, 1998). Therefore, regional and external interaction study adopts a panel data model as follows:
among firms and other innovation organizations is important for re- To estimate the model, this study constructed a dataset covering 30
gional innovation potential. provincial-level regions in China from 2002 to 2011.1 The data are col-
However, the other research on the relationship among firms, uni- lected from official statistics published in various series of statistical
versities and research institutes within a broader context of regional in- yearbooks, including the China Statistical Yearbook (CSY), China Science
novation systems indicates that the relationship had limited influence on and Technology Statistical Yearbooks (CSTSY), and Annual Report of
regional technological development (Dabinett and Gore, 2001). Further- Patent Statistics (ARPS).2
more, firms in regions with high levels of interaction between producers
and users of knowledge may become so entrenched in purchasing tech- 3.2. Measures
nology from outside so that they might overlook the building of techno-
logical capabilities by themselves (X. Li, 2009). Such a trend may further 3.2.1. Measure the performance of regional innovation system
discourage innovation within the region. These arguments are consistent To measure and compare the performance of regional innovation
with the perspective of the Triple-Helix that emphasizes the non-linear systems between different regions, this paper employs the number of
dynamics of the interactions among institutional actors in an innovation applied domestic patents as a proxy for the level of commercially
system (Ivanova and Leydesdorff, 2014). Therefore, we expect that the valuable innovation output in specific region. It is used in the estimation
contribution of interaction between local producers and users of knowl- as the dependent variable reflecting the level of innovation capacity of
edge on regional innovation performance decreases when a region is regional innovation systems.3
filled with technological transactions or deals. Independent research Although patent applications have been noted as an imperfect
and development from firms, universities and research institutes should measure of innovation, and not all innovations are patented
be encouraged in the long run. In short, a moderate level of interaction (Archambault, 2002; Archibugi, 1992; Griliches, 1990), alternative
between local producers and users of knowledge will be optimal for indicators of innovation output, such as new product sales (Liu
the building of regional innovation systems. and White, 1997) and literature-based innovation counts (Acs
Based on this rationale and evidence, we hypothesize: et al., 2002), are associated with similar drawbacks and subject to
even more criticism (Li, 2006). Thus, due to its availability and reli-
H3. The interaction between local producers and users of knowledge has ability, patent data remains one of the most popular ways to mea-
an inverted U-shaped relationship with the building of regional innovation sure innovation performance (J. Li, 2009; Zhang et al., 2014). A
systems, such that it has (a) a positive linear effect and (b) a negative strong body of literature on innovation research shows that patent
quadratic effect on the building of regional innovation systems. application is a solid measure of innovation performance of firms
(Griliches, 1990; Hagedoorn and Cloodt, 2003; Ren et al., 2015;
When firms, universities and research institutes collaborate with Roper and Hewitt-Dundas, 2015).
each other, they want to meet the market demand, which will pro- A check of compatibility among multiple indicators has further
mote regional innovation performance (Smilor et al., 1993). There- confirmed the usefulness of patent information in measuring inno-
fore, an important factor in determining the efficiency of regional vation output (Acs et al., 2002; Hagedoorn and Cloodt, 2003) and
innovation systems is building a cooperative social network among in regional innovation studies (Evangelista et al., 2001; X. Li, 2009).
firms, universities and research institutes (Lundvall, 2009). In this comparative study, since regions are subject to the same na-
Indeed, in a learning economy, technological innovation is basically un- tional patenting laws, processing costs and procedures; the use of
derstood as an interactive learning process, which is socially and territorially domestic patents does not involve source bias (Furman et al., 2002;
embedded and culturally and institutionally contextualized (Argyris and
Schön, 1997; Freeman, 1995; Lundvall and Johnson, 1994). The interaction 1
The dataset covers the data from all regions in mainland China except that of Tibet,
between local knowledge producers and users will stimulate an exchange where the data of R&D input is missing in many years. In fact, previous studies on regional
of technological innovation information among major innovation actors in- innovation system in China, e.g. X. Li (2009), also use the data from 30 provinces except
cluding firms, universities and research institutes, and promote the building 2
The data sources are not available online. But the hard copy of CSY, CSTSY, and ARPS
of regional innovation systems (Lundvall, 2009). This suggests a potential could be purchased in bookstores. We use the hard copy of CSY, CSTSY and ARPS to get
moderating effect of the interaction between local producers and users of our data. The English version of the data sources is also available in the hard copy.
knowledge on the relationship between different type of R&D investment Some scholars might argue that “PerGDP” could be an alternative dependent variable
from firms, universities and research institutes and the building of regional to measure the performance of regional innovation system. But in China, the GDP could
not reflect the level of regional innovation capacity. Chinese central government uses
innovation systems. The above expectations and rationales lead us to pro- GDP to measure the performance of local governments. As a result, local governments
pose the following two hypotheses: tend to use such policy tools as infrastructure investment and real estate to stimulate
the growth of GDP, instead of innovation. Therefore, there are some regions of China
where perGDP is high but the innovation capacity is low. That is why scholars do not
H4. The stronger the interaction between local producers and users of
use perGDP to measure the level of regional innovation capacity. Accordingly, most of
knowledge, the stronger the impact of firm R&D investment on building the extant literatures, e.g. X. Li (2009), Liu and White (2001), use patent to analyze region-
regional innovation systems. al innovation capacity. Therefore, we follow in this way.
16 H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20

Hu and Mathews, 2005). Variables based on Chinese domestic patent 3.2.4. Control variables
data are comparable between regions and thus constitute consistent In addition to the explanatory variables discussed above, we also in-
measures of technologically and economically significant innova- clude three variables to take into account other dimensions of regions
tions (X. Li, 2009). that might influence the performance of regional innovation, control-
Since it takes time to process and approve patent applications, the ling for GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capital, FDI (Foreign Direct
time lag is another issue associated with using patent data. In China, it Investment), education investment and government support for inno-
usually takes about 3 years for an invention patent application to be ap- vation of each region.
proved (X. Li, 2009, 2012). Therefore, we use patent applications in our As per capita GDP illustrates the ability of a region to explore and
model rather than patent grants to avoid long-lag problem. Considering realize the economic value of its knowledge stock (X. Li, 2009), it is
a time lag also exists between R&D efforts and innovative ideas, this important to control for the effect of this factor on regional innovation.
analysis also considers 1-year time lag to moderate the effect of time In our model, we use “PerGDP” to measure per capita GDP of each
lag on the results and check the robustness of the estimates. region. Meanwhile, as high-quality education and training are factors
that could lead to effective innovative performance of a region
(Nelson, 1993), we include education investment of each region to
3.2.2. Measure the R&D investment by various organizational types control for this effect, denoted as “EDU”.
In a regional innovation system, the flow of R&D resource commit- In the catch-up stage of late-comer economies, governments play an
ments, including both financial resources and human capital, is consid- indispensable role in regional innovation systems (Cho et al., 2012).
ered as direct input factors to the process of innovation. In this study, we They not only contribute important institutions, including laws and
only use financial resources, i.e. R&D investment, in our model, because innovation policies, but they also provide direct financial support or
of the high correlation between these two variables. research grants to the innovation actors. They are often actively
To capture the distinct role of universities and research institutes in involved in guiding and allocating the limited R&D resources into
the innovation process, a variable “UniAndIns” is included in the model. specific industries where technological advances and knowledge diffu-
It is constructed as the sum of R&D expenditures spent by both univer- sion are regarded as critical (Amsden and Chu, 2003; Etzkowitz and
sities and research institutes. For the purpose of simplification, this Leydesdorff, 2000; Gerschenkron, 1962; Kim, 1997; Liu and White,
paper does not make a further distinction between these two types of 2001; Morris-Suzuki, 1994), thus affecting both the quality and quantity
organizations. of innovation output. Therefore, we include the share of local financial
Consistent with research by Liu and White (2001) and X. Li (2009), revenue spent on S&T activity by the regional government in our
we find from the data that the share of R&D activity contributed by model, denoted by “Gov”, to control for the strength of the
firms continued to grow in most regions. In fact, firms have become government's resource commitment.
the major actors in terms of R&D investment. In this paper, we use the Furthermore, as technological knowledge from advanced economies
variable “Firm” to measure the R&D expenditures by firms in every is one of the most important technology sources for transition econo-
region. mies like China (Gerschenkron, 1962; Giuliani et al., 2005), having ac-
cess to this technology source is one of the important external factors
that affects the innovation capacity of a region. In our model, we include
3.2.3. Measure the interaction between local producers and users of the variable “FDI” to control for foreign direct investment of each region,
knowledge the most important source that domestic firms could learn from foreign
The interaction between knowledge users and producers plays an technology providers (Asheim and Vang, 2006).
important role in the success of innovation characterized by interactive In detail, Table 1 gives the definitions and sources of variables used
learning (Lundvall, 2009, 2010). in this empirical analysis.
To capture the effect of interactive learning between the users and
producers of technological knowledge, an intermediate measure is con- 4. Data analysis
sidered: the contract value in the regional technology market.4 Thus we
include a new variable in our model, “TechMkt”, which is defined as the This section contains the estimated results of our model. Table 2 pre-
value of contract deals in domestic technology markets by region. This sents descriptive statistics.
variable reflects the intensity of transactions or collaborations between From the descriptive statistics, we can see that the standard devia-
local knowledge producers and users in regional innovation systems. In tion of the dependent variable is much higher than the mean value.
reply to H3, we also include “TechMkt2” in our model, to see whether This is because the innovation resources are unevenly distributed across
the inverted-U relationship between “TechMkt” and regional innova- different regions of China. In the eastern economically developed
tion performance holds. regions, firms are more active in research or innovation than their coun-
Additionally, we add interaction terms to test the hypothesis stated terparts in western regions. Meanwhile, there are more R&D investment
in the previous section. We use TechMkt ∗ Firm to estimate the effect of by universities and research institutes in eastern regions. As a result,
technology market on the role of firms in regional innovation systems. there is relatively large variance with respect to both R&D input and
Following H4, we expect the coefficient will be positive, indicating output (patents).
that the contribution of firms' R&D investment is increasing with the de- Tables 3 and 4 present the results of the panel data analysis. First, we
velopment of technology market. We also include TechMkt ∗ UniAndIns use the Hausman Test to decide whether we should use fixed effect or
to capture the effect of technology market on the role of universities and random effect panel data model to test our hypotheses (Fitzmaurice
research institutes in regional innovation systems. Based upon H5, we et al., 2004). We can see in Tables 3 and 4 that the results of Hausman
expect the coefficient will be positive, indicating the positive moderat- Test are all smaller than 0.05, which means that models with fixed effect
ing role of technology market on the role of universities and research are more appropriate than models with random effect. Therefore, we
institutes. employ the fixed-effect panel data model approach to assess the
explanatory power of each set of variables. In Table 3, we present the
In the early stage of China's S&T system reform, a technology market solution was results of the fixed panel estimates to allow for a direct comparison
used as a diffusion mechanism to promote the transfer of technology from the knowledge between coefficients with respect to their relative explanatory power
producers to the technology users (Liu and White, 2001). On technology market, knowl-
edge producers transfer their knowledge and technology to users via contract. The exis-
of the dependent variable. In Table 4, we present the 1-year time lag
tence of technology markets makes it easier to transfer knowledge and technology panel regression with the fixed-effect panel data model to estimate
between organizations. our hypothesis. In both Tables 3 and 4, we can see that the Pseudu R2
H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20 17

Table 1
Definitions and sources of variables.

Variable Definition Source

Dependent variable Patents The number of patent applications Annual Report of Patent Statistics (ARPS) by State Intellectual Property
Office of China: 2002–2012
Explanatory variables Firm R&D investment from firms China Science & Technology Statistical Yearbooks (CSTSY): 2003–2012
China Statistical Yearbook (CSY): 2003–2012
UniAndIns R&D investment from universities and research institutes CSTSY: 2003–2012
CSY: 2003–2012
TechMkt The value of contract deals in domestic technology markets CSTSY:2003–2012
Control variables PerGDP GDP per capita CSY: 2003–2012
GOV The share of local financial revenue spent on S&T activity CSY: 2003–2012
by regional governments
EDU Education investment CSY: 2003–2012
FDI Foreign direct investment CSY: 2003–2012

increases when we add more explanatory variables in M2a (M2b), M3a coefficient of TechMkt becomes larger in the 1-year lad scenario,
(M3b) and M4a (M4b). This means that the models have more which illustrates the time-lag effect of technology market.
explanatory power when we add more variables. Although the Pseudu In step 4, we assess the moderating role of TechMkt on the effects of
R2 is smaller in the 1-year lag model (Table 4) than that in Table 3, all Firm and UniAndIns. As M4a and M4b show, the interaction between
the Pseudu R2 is larger than 0.6 in Table 4, illustrating good model fit TechMkt and Firm positively affects Patents, which indicates that
in our test. TechMkt strengthens the positive effects of R&D investment from
M1a and M1b estimate the effect of the control variables. As present- firms on the performance of regional innovation systems. Similarly,
ed in Tables 3 and 4, both PerGDP and FDI positively affect the perfor- the coefficients of the interaction between TechMkt and Firm in both
mance regional innovation systems in two time-scenarios, but EDU time-scenarios are significant, indicating that the relationship between
and GOV do not have a significant effect. the investment from universities and research institutes and the perfor-
M2a and M2b examine the main effects specified in H1 and H2. As mance of regional innovation systems is significantly moderated by the
M2a and M2b show, R&D investment from firms positively affects the interaction between local producers and users of knowledge. These re-
performance of regional innovation systems in both time-scenarios, in- sults support H4 and H5. As a result, we can see the interaction between
dicating that H1 is supported. Regarding the effects of R&D investment producers and users of knowledge enhances the positive effect of firms
from universities and research institutes, the estimated coefficients and universities in their role to promote the performance of regional
are significant at the 0.01 significant level. These results strongly sup- innovation system. That is, such interactions strengthen the positive
port H2. Furthermore, when we compare the coefficients of Table 3 influence of firms and universities. Furthermore, when we compare
with those of Table 4, we can see that the coefficient of UniAndIns be- the coefficients of Table 3 with those of Table 4, we can see that the
comes larger in the 1-year lad scenario, while the coefficient of Firm be- coefficients of the two interactions become larger in the 1-year lad
comes smaller in the 1-year scenario. The results illustrate that the R&D scenario, which highlights the time-lag effect of the interactions.
investment from universities and research institutes have more time-
lag effect on regional innovation performance, while R&D investments
from firms have more short-term effect. The results highlight the differ- Table 3
ent roles played by these two actors in regional innovation system. Results from panel regression with no time lag.

H3 deals with the relationship between technology markets and the Patents
performance of regional innovation systems. As we show in M3a,
M1a M2a M3a M4a
TechMkt relates positively to Patents (b = 0.605, p b 0.01), whereas
PerGDP 28.443⁎⁎⁎ 0.211 −7.190 5.683⁎⁎
TechMkt2 negatively affects patents (b = −0.001, p b 0.01). That is, a
(5.761) (0.047) (−1.643) (1.993)
curvilinear (inverted U-shaped) relationship exists between technology GOV 1.622 11.232 41.006⁎⁎⁎ 11.030⁎
market and the performance of regional innovation systems, indicating (0.152) (1.223) (4.288) (1.755)
the diminishing returns of high levels of technology market utilization. EDU 1.041 0.708 −0.132 0.492
In addition, M3b has the same result. Therefore, TechMkt has an (0.449) (0.380) (−0.077) (0.442)
FDI 0.096⁎⁎⁎ 0.047⁎⁎⁎ 0.031⁎⁎⁎ 0.013⁎⁎
inverted U-shaped relationship with the performance of regional inno- (7.991) (4.524) (3.202) (2.152)
vation systems, in support of H3. Moreover, when we compare the Firm (F) 0.335⁎⁎⁎ 0.302⁎⁎⁎ −0.003
coefficients of Table 3 with those of Table 4, we can see that the (9.272) (9.062) (−0.110)
UniAndIns (U) 0.861⁎⁎⁎ 0.486⁎⁎⁎ 0.596⁎⁎⁎
(8.873) (2.595) (4.271)
Table 2
TechMkt (TM) 0.605⁎⁎⁎ −0.178⁎⁎⁎
Descriptive statistics of variables.
(7.033) (−2.633)
Variables N Period mean Std. dev min max TM2 −0.001⁎⁎⁎ −0.001⁎⁎⁎
(−6.714) (−4.894)
Dependent variables F ∗ TM 0.002⁎⁎⁎
Patent 300 2002–2011 52.175 92.959 0.478 846.780 (19.781)
Patent + 1 270 2003–2011 56.683 96.86378 0.490 846.780 U ∗ TM 0.002⁎⁎⁎
Explanatory variables (4.073)
Firm 300 2002–2011 114.004 154.724 0.710 949.600 _cons −47.889⁎⁎⁎ −49.184⁎⁎⁎ −75.928⁎⁎⁎ −21.160⁎⁎
UniAndIns 300 2002–2011 35.714 63.683 0.000 557.000 (−2.943) (−3.791) (−6.105) (−2.533)
TechMkt 300 2002–2011 73.981 190.913 0.190 1890 N 300 300 300 300
PseudoR2 0.6699 0.7288 0.7743 0.8806
Control variables Hausman 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000
GOV 300 2002–2011 1.203 1.084 0.140 7.410 F 85.924 118.220 112.340 263.340
PerGDP 300 2002–2011 2.238 1.654 0.315 8.521
⁎ p b 0.1.
EDU 300 2002–2011 7.814 5.240 1.000 34.000
⁎⁎ p b 0.05.
FDI 300 2002–2011 275.496 489.236 0.150 2611.670
⁎⁎⁎ p b 0.01.
18 H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20

Table 4 Second, we find that R&D investment from firms has a significantly
Results from panel regression with 1-year time lag. positive effect on the performance of regional innovation systems.
Patents This finding is consistent with the perspective of evolutionary econo-
M1b M2b M3b M4b
mists that consider firms as the units of analysis (Nelson, 1993). Our
analysis provides a more profound understanding of the role of the in-
PerGDP 33.991⁎⁎⁎ 5.377 −2.297 5.219
novative firms as institutional actors that drive innovation in regional
(5.291) (0.813) (−0.363) (0.999)
GOV 1.568 24.091⁎⁎ 42.214⁎⁎⁎ 16.862⁎ innovation systems. Consistent with other research (X. Li, 2009; Liu
(0.136) (2.229) (3.689) (1.743) and White, 2001), we find from the data that the share of R&D activity
EDU 2.754 0.852 −3.531 1.191 contributed by firms continued to grow in most regions. Our analysis
(0.883) (0.302) (−1.287) (0.520) further extends the argument that firms have become the major actors
FDI 0.087⁎⁎⁎ 0.063⁎⁎⁎ 0.048⁎⁎⁎ 0.028⁎⁎⁎
(6.757) (5.235) (4.225) (2.956)
not only in terms of R&D investment, but also in innovation output. Our
Firm (F) 0.201⁎⁎⁎ 0.178⁎⁎⁎ −0.073 empirical analysis demonstrates the importance of transforming re-
(4.347) (4.112) (−1.573) gional innovation to firm-dominant innovation mode.
UniAndIns (U) 1.117⁎⁎⁎ 1.419⁎⁎⁎ 0.817⁎⁎⁎ Third, we find that universities and research institutes can contrib-
(7.738) (5.509) (3.011)
ute directly to the performance of regional innovation system rather
TechMkt (TM) 0.620⁎⁎⁎ −0.115
(5.108) (−0.726) than behaving only as agents of basic research. This analysis is consis-
TM2 −0.001⁎⁎⁎ −0.002⁎⁎⁎ tent with a more “industrial” role for universities in “Triple Helix”
(−6.057) (−5.266) framework (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000). Although the Triple
F ∗ TM 0.003⁎⁎⁎ Helix thesis postulates that the university plays a more prominent role
U ∗ TM 0.006⁎⁎⁎
in innovation as an entrepreneur in knowledge-based societies
(5.151) (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1998), there are controversial arguments
_cons −57.394⁎⁎⁎ −62.247⁎⁎⁎ −68.126⁎⁎⁎ −36.109⁎⁎ towards the role of universities and research institutes in the production
(−2.757) (−3.418) (−3.972) (−2.509) of patents (Buesa et al., 2010; Mowery and Sampat, 2005). For example,
N 270 270 270 270
some scholars argue that patents involving inventions from university
PseudoR2 0.6419 0.6604 0.7069 0.7213
Hausman 0.0000 0.0004 0.0000 0.0000 or public laboratories are of little importance in innovation system
F 72.493 75.847 69.953 94.968 (Cohen et al., 2002), while others believe that university researchers
⁎ p b 0.1. are making important contributions to technology development in
⁎⁎ p b 0.05. innovation systems (Yoon, 2015). These seemingly controversial
⁎⁎⁎ p b 0.01. arguments highlight that the importance of the role of universities
and research institutes varies considerably, and is influenced by the
More interestingly, we find that when we include the interaction structure of domestic industry, the size and structure of other publicly
term TM ∗ F in model M4a and M4b, the coefficient of Firm becomes in- funded research performers, and numerous other factors. Our empirical
significant. This means that firms depend heavily on technology market analysis shows that in transition economy firms do not have the innova-
to get their innovation source. Although previous research highlights tion capability to create the most technologically intensive innovations.
the role of innovative firms to generate technological knowledge But universities and research institutes are still important institutional
(Buesa et al., 2010), our analysis indicates that in such a transition econ- actors in major spheres of regional innovation system. In such a context,
omy such as China firms behave more as a link that connects the pro- universities support regional innovation through the production of
duction and innovation system. “deliverable innovation” for commercialization. Our research highlights
the importance of developing a stronger analytic framework for under-
standing the role of universities within regional innovation systems.
5. Discussion and implications Our fourth finding is related to the interaction among the institu-
tional actors in a regional innovation system. Such interaction fortifies
5.1. Discussion and conclusions the conceptual and empirical grounds for exploring the ‘systemness”
of innovation (Leydesdorff and Zawdie, 2010), because interactions be-
Unlike the studies based on a broad set of variables (Buesa et al., tween institutional actors are essential to enhance conditions for inno-
2010), this paper studies the roles of firms, universities and research in- vation (Lundvall, 2010). Therefore, the evaluation of the quality of
stitutes on the building of regional innovation system, with a special transactional interactions is one of the characteristics of both regional
focus on the effect of the interaction between these actors. This perspec- innovation system and Triple-Helix model (Ivanova and Leydesdorff,
tive is consistent with the narrow definition of innovation system 2014). However, techniques in the extant literature are focused on the
(Asheim and Gertler, 2005; Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000). Based analysis of the institutional actors, and are not suited for the analysis
on a panel of 30 regions in China from 2002 to 2011, our analysis reveals of the interactions (Chung and Park, 2014). In response to this, our
several interesting findings. research develops an empirical model to operationalize the non-linear
First, our research develops analytical technique that goes beyond dynamics, and reinforces the argument in Triple-Helix literature that
phenomenological descriptions, enabling us to study how different fac- emphasizes the non-linear dynamics of interaction among actors.
tors interact in a systemic context. The extant literature has illustrated Specifically, as the relationship between the site where knowledge is
the transformation of system dynamics from Mode 1 of knowledge pro- produced and its eventual utilization affects the synergy among the
duction to the Mode 2 (Gibbons et al., 1994). Based on this, the Triple knowledge functions (Strand and Leydesdorff, 2013), we explore the ef-
Helix model provides a more detailed picture of Mode 2 by specifying fects of the interaction between local producers and users of knowledge
the social structure of a dynamic system of innovation with the institu- on regional innovation. Our research finds that such interaction has an
tional relations among universities, industry, and the government inverted U-shape relationship with the performance of regional innova-
(Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1997, 2000; Leydesdorff and Zawdie, tion system. That is, a moderate level of interaction relates to the highest
2010). However, the existing Triple-Helix model has rested mostly on performance of a regional innovation system, whereas a high level of
phenomenological case-studies (Ivanova and Leydesdorff, 2014). Our interaction actually inhibits the innovation activities within a regional
empirical analysis can help to formalize and operationalize the non- innovation system. This finding extends our understanding of the
linear dynamics underlying innovation system and reveal the features non-linear dynamics of interaction between actors in the Triple-Helix
that remain hidden in phenomenological descriptions. model. The finding also enriches extant literature by demonstrating
H. Jiao et al. / Technological Forecasting & Social Change 110 (2016) 13–20 19

the possible liabilities of the increased interaction among the institu- firms in trajectories that rely too much on technology transfer, locking
tional actors in regional innovation systems. Although existing litera- them in existing routines, and prevent them from developing their
tures emphasize strengthening linkage between universities and own innovation capabilities. To overcome such challenges, regional
industry to facilitate the transfer of technology and knowledge, our re- governments should balance the indigenous innovation activities
search finds that a moderate level of the interaction between these of the actors and the interaction among them, and maintain a culture
two actors is suitable. As there are no adequate methods for the quanti- that facilitates the building of innovation capabilities.
tative evaluation of the processes occurring in the Triple Helix (Ivanova
and Leydesdorff, 2014), this paper adds to our understanding on how 5.3. Limitations
the interaction in Triple-Helix model contribute to regional innovation
systems. As with any empirical study, this study suffers from several limita-
Fifth, we advance extant literature by proposing and confirming em- tions. One limitation, which is common in studies analyzing patent
pirically that actors will be reproduced and changed by the interactions data, is that we have not clearly accounted for the problem of patent
in regional innovation system (Chung and Park, 2014; Leydesdorff and “quality”. For example, the quality of invention applications is possibly
Zawdie, 2010). Our findings show that the interaction between local different across the technology fields. In a region with developed
producers and users of knowledge helps both firms and universities to high-tech sectors, a patent may translate into more valuable innovation
strengthen their role in regional innovation system. Such interaction and represent more R&D effort than in a region characterized by tradi-
describes a dynamic communicative cycle in relation to universities tional low-tech sectors. This study can be extended in several directions
and industry, shaping a potential hyper-cycle of meaning exchange in the future. It would be worthwhile to try other measures of innova-
processes that can operate as feedback or feed-forward, and thus tion output. The methodology adopted here could be extended to
shape new opportunities. This communication among actors may lead other BRICS countries.
to the emergence of new technologies. From these shifts, new commu-
nicative waves can arise that affect other technological opportunities.
For example, the interaction may provide access to information and Acknowledgements
competence that supplements firms' locally derived competence. This
not only increases their collective innovative capacity, but may also The authors are indebted to TFSC editor Prof. Dr. Han Woo Park, Dr.
serve to counteract technological “lock-in” (the inability to deviate Weiai Wayne Xu and anonymous reviewers for their many constructive
from an established but outmoded technological trajectory) within re- insights and suggestions in improving this article. The research was sup-
gional clusters of firms. Our finding reveals that the interaction between ported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71572017;
local producers and users of knowledge appears to be one type of 71202116; 71202029; 71202150) and the Fundamental Research Funds
“bridging institutions”. It enables the institutional actors (both firms for the Central Universities, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
and universities) to achieve the potential of their innovation capabilities (SKZZX2013038; SKZZA2015011) and the Youth Social Science Talent
in regional innovation system. This finding illustrates how the interac- funding Project, Beijing Federation of Social Science Circles, Beijing,
tions between actors in a regional innovation system function as an China (2015SKL011).
evolving coordination mechanism that shapes and modifies the struc-
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Dr. Hao Jiao is an associate professor in the Business School, Beijing Normal University,
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China. His research interests include entrepreneurship management, innovation manage-
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ment and dynamic capabilities theory within the context of emerging markets, among
mented? The moderating effect of environmental dynamism between dynamic capa-
others. He has published well over 70 articles in major refereed journals in entrepreneur-
bilities and new venture performance. J. Eng. Technol. Manag. 30 (2), 188–205.
ship and innovation management such as Technological Forecasting & Social Change,
Khan, G., Park, H., 2012. Editorial: Triple Helix and innovation in Asia using
Academy of Management Perspective, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Journal
scientometrics, webometrics, and informetrics. Scientometrics 90 (1), 1–7.
of Engineering and Technology Management, and Corporate Governance.
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Leydesdorff, L., Zawdie, G., 2010. The Triple Helix perspective of innovation systems. Tech. management within the context of emerging markets, among others. He has published
Anal. Strat. Manag. 22 (7), 789–804. well over 20 articles in major refereed journals in business and management.
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terms of synergy among technological, organizational, and geographic attributes of Dr. Taishan Gao is an assistant researcher, in the informatization Institute of State Informa-
firms. Scientometrics 98 (3), 1703–1719. tion Center, China. He received his PhD degrees of management from University of Chinese
Li, X., 2006. Regional innovation performance: evidence from domestic patenting in Academy of Sciences. His research interests include innovation management, and so on.
China. Innov. Manag. Policy Pract. 8 (1), 171–192.
Li, J., 2009a. Scaling up concentrating solar thermal technology in China. Renew. Sust. Dr. Xielin Liu is a professor in the Management School, University of Chinese Academy of
Energ. Rev. 13 (8), 2051–2060. Sciences, China. His research interests are mainly on innovation management. He has
Li, X., 2009b. China's regional innovation capacity in transition: an empirical approach. published well over 50 articles in major refereed journals in business and management,
Res. Policy 38 (2), 338–357. such as Research Policy, Technovation, International Journal of Technology Management,
Li, X., 2012. Behind the recent surge of Chinese patenting: an institutional view. Res. Pol- and so on.
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