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Explaining the Nature of Technological Innovation in Chinese Enterprises

Final Report Summary - E.N.T.I.C.E. (Explaining the Nature of Technological Innovation in Chinese Enterprises)

E.N.T.I.C.E. stands for Explaining the Nature of Technological Innovation in Chinese Enterprises. Accordingly, E.N.T.I.C.E. basic intent was to cater the need to know and understand more about China’s technology rise in the belief that better knowledge is the first and foremost step in establishing and improving mutually beneficial innovation cooperation endeavours at all levels.

With these aims, the exchange programme was geared towards two main interrelated objectives.
1. The first objective was to carry out a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and multi-level investigation about the main determinants of technological innovation and competitiveness in Chinese enterprises useful to assess the potential impacts on EU innovation strategies and polices.
This objective was pursued by carrying out an analysis that involved management science and engineering, organizational behaviour, cognitive psychology and neuroscience disciplines on a number of system-level (i.e. international technology transfer and intellectual property implementation), inter-intra-organizational-level (i.e. absorptive capacity, technology innovation networks and human resources management) and individual-level (i.e. creative cognitive processes) topics. More in detail the work carried out in these regards concerned extensive literature reviews, quantitative and qualitative studies, a brain imaging investigation and the organization of an international conference. The result of these activities led to:
– A broader view of intellectual property and its implementation that transcends legal protection by advancing market-based contractual solutions to protect intellectual property in technology transfer and identifying controversial and threshold effects of innovation support policies on Chinese enterprises innovation activities and capabilities.
– The discovery of a gap within Chinese enterprises’ knowledge processing that explains current technological innovation models, past choices and potential technology innovation trajectories of Chinese enterprises.
– The development of a high innovative people-centric work system directed to enhance firm’s innovation performance and exploration of different HRM constructs’ contradictory effects on the same type of innovation, based on their interaction effects.
– The identification specific behavioral factors associated with the underlying neural activities of creativity, which correspond to the ones responsible for the formation of new memories from experience, evidence-based judgment, and self-related thinking.
– The illustration of Chinese enterprises current technological innovation models, factors to consider when envisaging likely development trajectories and scenarios, drawing of implications and recommendations to EU stakeholders.
– A number of other results useful to further research endeavors related to: a complete literature review on absorptive capacity measurement, an account of the differential role and effects of networks on technological innovation when confronted with absorptive capacity, a comprehensive theoretical framework for people-centric innovation system, a systemic framework of the organizational factors affecting positively individual and organizational creativity.
Although drawn from Chinese enterprises, most of these results transcend the Chinese context, with particular references to other emerging and developing countries, these Countries Multinational Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises everywhere.

2. The second objective was to create the first nucleus of a unique network of EU and Chinese scientists on innovation and technology to leverage and make sustainable E.N.T.I.C.E. endeavours through the development of multi-lateral scientific collaborations based on bi-directional mobility of researchers between the EU and China.
The objective was pursued by the creation of an extended partnership for the establishment of a Multi-lateral Research and Mobility Network in Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship focussed on East Asia.
Currently, the partnership includes 11 Universities and Research Institutions, extending from Morocco to Japan through EU and China. It relies on Engineering to Economics and Management, Psychology and Social Science and Humanities disciplines. Its aim is to support multi-lateral joint research and mobility programs.

With specific regards to the impacts and uses of these results, they produce both research and socio-economic related impacts. Concerning the former:
• Extension of received theories to the Chinese context, with specific reference to the effect of international technology transfer and especially intellectual property implementation; absorptive capacity, network attributes and human resource management on firm’s technology and innovation activities and capabilities.
• Expansion of technology innovation management, strategic management and human resources management theories by the following. 1) Promoting a broader view of intellectual property implementation that transcends legal protection. 2) Advancing a process-based, complementary view of absorptive capacity that provides fine-grained explanations about the issues of innovation ‘resilience’ in latecomer firms. 3) Investigating the role of cultural factors within the relationship between HRM models and firm’s innovation capabilities in the context of internationalization. 4) Examining the role of self-referential processing in creative cognitive processes.
• Nine papers published/accepted, eight participations/acceptance to international conferences, one edited book with four joint chapters.
• Four joint projects already granted - two from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), one from Guangdong Province S&T Calls and one from Jinan University – and one application to H2020 RISE Call.
• Organization of three international events (Madrid, Spain – Beijing, China – Lecce, Italy), project’s presentations in Guangdong (China), Boston (US), Ifrane (Morocco), Venice (Italy) and more than thirty bi-lateral sharing and training seminars during the exchanges.

Concerning socio-economic impacts, these stem directly from the basic intent that gave birth to the project. The project originated and structured upon the need to have better knowledge of China’s technology rise for the purposes of establishing and improving cooperation endeavours at the institutional as well as at the industrial levels.
In these regards E.N.T.I.C.E. developed up-to-date, first-hand and scientifically-proven knowledge on relevant aspects of Chinese enterprises technology innovation and scale up, making it useful for the purposes of EU stakeholders, with particular reference to consider how and in what direction EU and China can broaden and deepen their collaboration and on how to mutually benefit from it.
Thanks to the exchanges undertaken and the cooperation model set up, it also gave its contribution to the endeavour of improving ERA attractiveness to Chinese researchers, while at the same time increasing the familiarity of EU researchers with the Chinese context and research environment.
In addition, thanks to the new multi-lateral partnership established, it also created the framework conditions to extend the reach of these impacts to further Chinese universities, as well as to other East-Asian Countries and not only.
The same in fact applies to businesses, which may rely on the multi-lateral alleys created by the partnership. EU enterprises, with particular reference to SMEs, may join the cooperative undertakings foreseen to benefit of National and International research and mobility funds. By doing so, SMEs can gain field experience in new markets; learn and cooperate in joint and mutually beneficial endeavours with Chinese and other East-Asian counterparts; as well as to train employees in, and for, an international environment. These are the main preliminary steps to ensure the subsequent establishment of significant business relationships and profitable exchanges for large as well as small and medium sized enterprises. For these latter however, the investments required could be definitely out-of-reach or difficult to make them worth. The network created offers to EU SMEs a chance to seek and engage in this important area of the World.
Finally, besides researchers and entrepreneurs, E.N.T.I.C.E. endeavours appeal to EU policy makers in charge, dealing or interested with Chinese technology and innovation related-issues and cooperation, with particular reference to trade and investment policies, science and technology polices and industrial policies in general, international cooperation and development and educational exchanges. These latter not limited to students, but extended to managers and practitioners.