Monday 22 December 2014

China and Brazil in African Agriculture: 2 new policy briefs

The School of Advanced International Studies’ China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS-CARI) has published two new policy briefs on Chinese agricultural engagement in Africa.

The papers are written by Sérgio Chichava and Henry Tugendhat, members of the Rising Powers in African Agriculture project.

They report initial research results from the SAIS-CARI conference "Agricultural Investment in Africa: 'Land Grabs' or Friendship Farms'?" held on 16 and 17 May 2014.

Chinese Agricultural Investment in Mozambique: the Case of Wanbao Rice Farm
Sérgio Chichava, SAIS-CARI Policy Brief No. 2, November 2014

China’s largest agricultural investment in Africa is reported to be the Hubei Gaza Friendship Farm, established in 2007 in Mozambique and now managed by a private Chinese firm, Wanbao Africa Agriculture Development Limited (WAADL). While officials have welcomed external investment as a source of employment and development, local communities have decried the project as a “land grab”. Tensions among local activists, the government and the Chinese investors continue to run high, posing a challenge to the future of agricultural investment in the country.

Chinese Training Courses for African Officials: a “Win-Win” Engagement?
Henry Tugendhat, SAIS-CARI Policy Brief No. 3, December 2014

Some 30,000 African public officials have participated in Chinese training courses, yet little is known about their goals, structure, or content. Henry Tugendhat observed classroom trainings, interviewed trainees and reviewed publicly available course content. He argues that while China’s training courses do promote technology and knowledge transfers, they are also clearly organized to increase trade opportunities for Chinese firms, develop better political ties, and offer a positive image of China. This report, based on interviews and classroom observation, is the first study of its kind.

Read more about the conference: China’s Agricultural Investment in Africa: ‘Land Grabs’ or ‘Friendship Farms’?

This blog post was originally published at the Future Agricultures website

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Making Choices: Health Consumers, Regulation and the Global Stem Cell Therapy Market

Global Medical Discovery highlights a recent article by Brian Salter, Yinhua Zhou and Saheli Datta as a feature article for this month's issue. The excerpt below highlights the article's key findings.

The general reticence to engage with the reality of the global market of stem cell therapies serves to perpetuate the present neglect of consumer demand-led medical innovation and the forms of governance it requires. It is a reticence that has both supporters and opponents and is unlikely to remain politically unchallenged for long, and bioethicists are beginning to acknowledge the issues posed by medical innovation in the stem cell field [14]. It is important, also, that the present governance vacuum surrounding practice-based medical innovation is addressed by the medical profession itself through changes in its normal systems of self-regulation and professional guidance. Commenting on the ‘sclerotic’ qualities of the established drug innovation model traditionally sponsored by the USA and EU, Joyce Tait observes of China and India that ‘these increasingly powerful components of the bioeconomy may see a competitive advantage in leading regulatory reform so as to encourage more innovative health care sectors to develop, initially for their large and increasingly wealthy home markets, and perhaps also to encourage change in the United States and European regulatory systems’ [15]. Given the market benefits that may accrue from the association of these emerging economies with stem cell medical innovation as documented in this paper, it would be irrational of them to do otherwise.

For more details please refer to Global Medical Discovery.

The full article can be found at: Salter, Brian, Yinhua Zhou, and Saheli Datta. (2014). "Making Choices: Health Consumers, Regulation and the Global Stem Cell Therapy Market." BioDrugs: 1-4.  

Friday 14 November 2014

Renewable energy in Mozambique: fieldwork impressions of a FUNAE mini-hydro system

Visit on 25 August, 2014 I recently spent four weeks observing several small-scale renewable energy projects in Mozambique. As part of the Rising Powers project, I accompanied two consultants from the Harare office of the NGO Practical Action and the...

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Nanotechnology Research and Innovation in Russia: A Bibliometric Analysis

By Philip Shapira

Image by Victor Habbick
Researchers with the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures project on Emerging Technologies, Trajectories and Implications of Next Generation Innovation Systems Development have published a new working paper on Nanotechnology Research and Innovation in Russia. This working paper presents findings from analyses of Russian nanotechnology outputs in publications and patents focusing on developments over the period 1990 through to 2012. The investigation draws on bibliometric datasets of scientific journal publications and patents and on available secondary English-language and Russian sources.

The working paper is authored by Maria Karaulova, Oliver Shackleton, Abdullah Gök, Maxim Kotsemir, and Philip Shapira. Kotsemir is a researcher with the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow – the project’s principal international partner in Russia. The other authors are researchers with the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. The research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/J012785/1] as part of the project Emerging Technologies, Trajectories and Implications of Next Generation Innovation Systems Development in China and Russia.

For further details, please refer to:
Karaulova, M., Shackleton, O., Gök, A., Kotsemir, M. and Shapira, P. (2014) 'Nanotechnology Research and Innovation in Russia: A Bibliometric Analysis', Project on Emerging Technologies, Trajectories and Implications of Next Generation Innovation Systems Development in China and Russia, Working Paper, October 2014.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Creating social value in 'bottom of the pyramid' markets: What can multinationals learn from businesses in rural India?

image by africa/
By Noemi Sinkovics, Rudolf Sinkovics and Mo Yamin

In a recent article published in International Business Review, 23(4), 692-707, Noemi Sinkovics, Rudolf Sinkovics and Mo Yamin explore the role of social value creation in business model formulation at the bottom of the pyramid and the implications for MNEs.

'Bottom of the pyramid' markets in Rising Powers
Within International Business, Rising Power countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are not only important as home countries of emerging multinational enterprises (MNEs), but their large populations also present huge markets for MNEs from other countries. However, despite growing middle classes in the Rising Power countries, significant parts of their populations still live on low incomes at the bottom of the economic pyramid. In fact, the majority of people belonging to the 'bottom of the pyramid' (BOP) worldwide can be found in emerging economies. Thus, understanding how BOP markets work can be an important advantage for MNEs to be successful in Rising Power markets.

Creating social value at the bottom of the pyramid
Discussions on MNE strategies in BOP markets often centre around the notion of creating social value, in addition to making profits for the business. Social value creation can be defined as contributing to sustenance, self-esteem and freedom of servitude (Todaro & Smith 2011)1, which ranges from basic necessities such as food and shelter to issues such as dignity and personal freedom to make choices in life.

To better understand the phenomenon of social value creation, this paper looks at how social value is created by entrepreneurs within the bottom of the pyramid, and what MNEs entering BOP markets can learn from these businesses.

Five examples of social value creation: businesses in rural India
For this purpose, we interviewed the owners of five businesses in rural India, who are not only targeting BOP markets but also themselves come from a low-income background. Two of these explicitly created their business to create social value, in order to overcome specific difficulties experienced in the local community: A company selling traditional paintings was founded to stop dependence of local artists on middlemen, who were selling their artwork at high margins. In a more modern sector, an IT entrepreneur founded a rural business process outsourcing firm in response to high unemployment among skilled workers in the area. Three other companies did not explicitly see community benefit as their mission, but nevertheless created social value through their operations in a variety of ways. Two companies producing bangles and incense sticks both have a positive impact on the community by providing education and employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged social groups, such as physically handicapped or slum-dwellers. Similarly another company that grows and processes amla (Indian gooseberry) and grew out of a women's self-help group has not only improved incomes for its members and employees. It has also acted as an example for other entrepreneurs to start similar businesses lifting them out of poverty.

On the whole, these case studies illustrate that social value can be created independently of whether this is a stated objective of the business or not. Further, for those businesses that do explicitly aim to create social value, this tends to be in response to a very specific 'trigger constraint', i.e. a local constraint that entrepreneurs experience and try to overcome.

On top of this, all five businesses show that in order to make a difference for communities, a business model at the bottom of the pyramid needs to be closely linked to specific needs and constraints experienced by members of this community. All business models studied addressed such needs as part of their core business, no matter whether they consciously aimed to create social value or not.

What can MNEs learn from this?
For MNEs, this means that in order to be successful in BOP markets connecting to local communities is key, but also that they will likely find it difficult to do this. In practice, it may be hard for MNEs to establish close links in social networks at the bottom of the pyramid to find out about the needs experienced locally. This puts them at a disadvantage over local companies. Further, long term engagement is important to understand the local situation - again, this is unlikely to happen for many MNEs. MNEs originating from Rising Power countries may nevertheless have an advantage in understanding of BOP markets over Western MNEs, based on cultural or spatial proximity.

The question of how MNEs can know about and respond to the needs of BOP customers is important to find ways of creating social value by responding to local constraints, as practised by businesses originating from the BOP.

For more details, please refer to: Sinkovics,N., Sinkovics,R.R. & M.Yamin (2014) The role of social value creation in business model formulation at the bottom of the pyramid – Implications for MNEs?, International Business Review, 23(4), 692-707.

1 Todaro, M.P., & Smith, S.C.(2011). Economic development (11th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Monday 13 October 2014

Researchers at Risk: Debating the Dilemmas of Research in Authoritarian Societies

By Catherine Owen

Researcher in PrisonMarking the 100th day since the arrest of Alexander Sodiqov in Khorog, Tajikistan, staff and students in the Universities of Exeter, Sciences Po and Toronto met to debate the wider implications for conducting fieldwork in potentially dangerous or rapidly changing societies. On 16th June 2014, Sodiqov, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, was detained by Tajik security officials in Khorog, capital of the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhstan, while conducting research for the University of Exeter into conflict resolution in the region. He was subsequently accused of collecting information that undermined national security and of working for a foreign intelligence service. The Tajik government soon charged him with high treason, a crime that carries a punishment of 20 years in prison. After spending more than a month behind bars, Sodiqov was released but was required to remain inside the country. Finally – and although the charges are still to be formally dropped – Sodiqov was allowed to return to his studies in Canada on 12 September.

Clearly, these events, and others like them, have serious implications for scholars. The questions driving the meetings were: what implications does the arrest of Sodiqov have for the future of ethnographic research in changing political contexts around the world? And how can we, as an academic community, prevent such events from happening in the future? In Exeter, the packed meeting was organised jointly by the undergraduate Politics and Amnesty International societies, and drew both undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as faculty and management. Questions were raised about the specifics of the Sodiqov case before developing into a broader discussion about how to protect researchers conducting fieldwork in authoritarian states. In Paris, the meeting draw researchers from a variety of institutions, who discussed whether the flurry of events similar to the Sodiqov case indicates the development of a broader trend towards greater hostility regarding foreign researchers in authoritarian states and, if so, how the academic community can and should protect those researchers.

A number of ideas were discussed that could potentially alert those planning research trips to authoritarian states to emergent dangers or changing perceptions of foreign researchers. In particular, the creation of a website to which posts detailing any difficulties encountered in various locations could be anonymously uploaded, thereby alerting the academic community to the current situation ‘on the ground’. This idea, a project of John Heathershaw and Edward Schatz, and currently in the planning stage, could serve as an important resource for researchers working in potentially turbulent areas. Ideally, such a site could allow scholars and their institutions to make informed decisions about whether or not to risk conducting research in these areas. Indeed, a similar body had been mooted by the French academic community in 2011, but alas was not pursued.

While a website that collates information about the political risks to researchers conducting work in authoritarian societies is an excellent idea in theory, there are, perhaps, a number of problems in practice. The following is not meant to be taken as pessimistic or cynical, but rather as a contribution to the on-going discussion about how to prevent the imprisonment of another researcher while also being unafraid to ask challenging research questions.

My primary concern is that the widespread use of such a site would create a culture of fear among researchers working on these countries. Would the collation of stories of arrest, imprisonment, harassment or persecution discourage scholars, particularly junior or post-graduate scholars, from pursuing their ideal object of study? Secondly, and following on from this, would such a site inflate the dangers of working such places? It could be that many hundreds of researchers conduct successful projects in a particular region, but five cases of state harassment were uploaded to the site, thus creating the impression of severe repression. In other words, it may end up exaggerating rather than reflecting potential risks. Furthermore, if individuals were uploading their own stories, they would be less likely to admit their own errors that perhaps partially precipitated their problems. It would be hard to know whether a region was genuinely risky, or whether researchers had somehow been insensitive, naïve or otherwise foolhardy. In short, would such a site inadvertently ‘shoot itself in the foot’, having been founded through a commitment to academic freedom but resulting in scholars’ self-censorship? While an online tool that collates researchers’ experiences conducting fieldwork evidently an important and much-needed resource, the big question, in my view – as someone who has also confronted the authoritarian state’s boundary of ‘appropriate’ research – is how to ensure that such a site is used to empower, not discourage, pioneering research.

Are these issues resolvable? I cannot pretend to know the answer. The most important thing is to continue a broad discussion about how to protect scholars from state persecution arising from their commitment to the furtherance of academic knowledge.

This blog post was originally published by the Exeter Central Asian Studies Network at on 3 October 2014 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Small firms and Corporate Social Responsibility: comparing the social contract in Brazil, China and India

By Peter Knorringa and Khalid Nadvi 
image by David Castillo Dominici/

In a recent article published in the Journal of Business Ethics, Peter Knorringa and Khalid Nadvi compare the local institutional context for socially and environmentally sustainable behaviour in small firm clusters in Brazil, China and India. The paper points to a number of open questions around small firms and CSR in the Rising Powers.

Multinational companies have been adopting elaborate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes at global level, but often face difficulties in implementing social and environmental standards throughout the supply chain - especially with many small suppliers located in emerging economies. To better understand how and when small firms are likely to improve their social and environmental performance, we propose to pay closer attention to the underlying social contract in these countries, including the formal and informal institutional context for CSR.

Important elements of such a social contract include both the national policy framework of labour and environmental regulation, as well as informal norms on ethical behaviour and traditions of compliance with formal rules that may exist in local industrial clusters. Hence, small firms that are located in industrial clusters in emerging economies and are supplying to multinationals not only face demands for compliance with global CSR standards from their international buyers, but they are also strongly influenced by the local context they operate in.

Nevertheless, we currently know very little about how these local and global forces interact. Do national labour laws and private social standards from MNCs complement each other in pushing for better working conditions in small firms? Are there informal ethical norms in local communities that small entrepreneurs belong to, which facilitate compliance with global CSR standards? Or, on the other hand, will small firms be less likely to comply with global social standards if they operate in a context where national labour laws are weakly enforced?

Comparing the social contracts in Brazil, China and India reveals differences in the local context for CSR, and in the ways in which these interact with global CSR standards:

In India, informal labour is common in small firms, which means that workers are not covered by formal labour laws. In addition, complex layers of subcontracting make it more difficult for international buyers to influence compliance with global CSR standards in suppliers. As a result, small firms in India face little pressure to improve social and environmental performance from the outside, and any willingness of entrepreneurs to engage in more social and environmentally sustainable production for ethical reasons is made more difficult by cut-throat competition in very price-sensitive markets.

In Brazil, on the contrary, there is relatively less informal employment. Labour laws in the formal sector are generally enforced, for example through a system of labour inspectors monitoring and facilitating compliance. Further, there is growing cooperation between the public and private sector around sustainability issues at national level which sets the scene for mutually reinforcing engagement including on global sustainability standards.

China is an intermediate case, where national labour and environmental laws have become stricter over the past decades, but the details of regulations and the effectiveness of enforcement differ across regions. Hence, the local institutional framework may be better positioned to accommodate global CSR demands than in India, but seems less conducive to effective enforcement of social and environmental standards than in Brazil.

Future research on CSR in emerging economy industrial clusters should explore in more detail the interactions between CSR pressures from global buyers and the localised social contract in which small firms operate. This requires paying attention to how public policies and informal norms at national and local level facilitate or hinder compliance with global social and environmental standards. In addition, it will be important to observe how the emergence of increasingly affluent middle classes in emerging economies such as China, India or Brazil influences the demand for social and environmentally sustainable goods in domestic markets. Potentially, such domestic sustainability standards in emerging economies may also begin to shape the formulation of global standards, as these countries increasingly engage in global governance fora.

For more details, please refer to:
Knorrigna, P. and Nadvi, K. (2014) 'Rising Power Clusters and the Challenges of Local and Global Standards', Journal of Business Ethics, September 2014.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Asian firms and the restructuring of global value chains

By Shamel Azmeh and Khalid Nadvi

image by hyena reality/
In their article on Asian firms and the restructuring of global value chains published in International Business Review, Shamel Azmeh and Khalid Nadvi analyse the roles of transnational Asian garment firms in shaping the global apparel industry. This post summarises some of their findings.

Global clothing brands such as Levi's, H&M, Marks & Spencer or JC Penney are well known players in the apparel industry. They have been shown to coordinate complex global value chains with supplier firms located in various countries. Less known are the strategic and pivotal roles that Asian transnational garment firms take on as first-tier suppliers to these brands. These new players, though largely unknown to most people, are crucial because they are increasingly able to reshape geographies and organizational processes within global value chains.

Who are these 'strategic and pivotal' Asian firms and how do they function? 
Many of these first-tier suppliers come from Greater China, e.g. Hong Kong or Taiwan, and South Asia. While their headquarters are based in these home countries, they have evolved from simple producers supplying to Western brands into truly transnational companies, with subsidiaries and suppliers around the globe, including in Asia, Africa and Central America. Asian transnational garment firms now take on more and more functions in the apparel industry, such as logistics or research and design for the brands that buy from them. For example, some Asian firms use forecasting software that is directly fed with data on current sales in the stores of global brands, which allows them to predict demand and respond quickly with changes in production and delivery. While some of them are developing their own brands, many do not see this as a priority for their business.

Can they actually change the structure of global value chains in the apparel industry?
These Asian transnational garment firms have highly developed organisational capacities, which allow them to coordinate flows of products, but also flows of labour and capital, across various locations. In doing so, they not only need to engage with different cultural, political and regulatory contexts, but also monitor changes in trade rules or regulations that may affect garment production in a particular location. In fact, they are extremely flexible in reacting to such changes. They tend to avoid being too closely embedded in any particular country context, ready to leave when preferential trade rules are discontinued or when labour costs rise. This contributes to a very flexible model of globalisation, and the Asian 'strategic and pivotal' firms are the key players driving the decisions to change production locations.

The example of Jordan
Jordan illustrates these dynamics and the crucial roles of Asian firms. Without much history of a textile and apparel industry, and with high labour costs, Jordan did not appear to be a likely location for FDI in the sector in the early 1990s. However, in 1997 Jordan and the United States signed a preferential trade agreement, giving firms producing in a 'Qualifying Industrial Zone'(QIZ) in Jordan duty and quota free access to the US market. A condition was the use a minimum share of inputs from Israel, in an effort to promote the Middle East peace process. In addition to the preferential trade rules, a special labour regime was implemented in these zones allowing firms to bring migrant workers to their factories and also excluding these zones from the legal minimum wage in Jordan in recent years.

These two policies acted as a catalyst, attracting Asian multinational garment firms. Investment from these firms was the key driver for Jordan to become a garment exporting country. Within a few years, these Asian firms set up an almost entirely new industry in Jordan and integrated the country into the global value chain for apparel. As a result, exports to the US rose from USD 3 million in 1997 to USD 1.25 billion in 2006.

However, as described above, Asian firms did not embed deeply into the Jordanian economy. Flexible rules of origin attached to the preferential trade rules made the arrangement attractive for these firms, because they could use their existing supplier networks in third countries to source inputs such as yarn. In addition, the flexible labour regime allowed firms to bring in migrant workers from Asia, which make up 75-80% of workers in the garment factories in Jordan. Fitting with the trend of global locational flexibility, interviews with firms indicate that they are ready to go elsewhere, if either the trade preferences or the labour regulations should change.

For more details, please refer to: 
Azmeh, S. & Nadvi, K.(2014.) Asian firms and the restructuring of global value chainsInternational Business Review, 23(4), 708-717.

Friday 5 September 2014

Low carbon standards made in China?

By Clara Brandi
image by domdeen/
In a recent article on Low-Carbon Standards and Labels in China, published in Oxford Development Studies, Clara Brandi asks how Chinese actors respond to the proliferation of environmental sustainability standards and what this will mean for global sustainability. This post summarises some of the findings.

Environmental sustainability standards are increasingly used by multinational companies, and could be an important tool to address global challenges such as climate change. An example are low carbon standards and labels that measure the 'carbon footprint' of a product. In the UK, Tesco was using carbon labels on 500 of its products in 2012, informing customers about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused throughout different stages of producing, transporting and storing the product on its way to the final consumer.

How will actors in Rising Power countries, such as China, engage with these new standards? Considering the share of emerging economies in the global economy and in global carbon emissions, this question is crucial to understand whether low carbon standards will actually make a difference on climate change. China is a particularly interesting case, as a major emitter of greenhouse gases, as home to emerging multinationals, and as 'factory of the world' supplying Western multinationals. Emerging Chinese multinationals face pressures to comply with low carbon standards in countries abroad and from financial markets. Suppliers to Western multinationals are under pressure to measure their carbon emissions so that these lead firms are able to calculate the full carbon footprint of a product throughout the supply chain.

Basically, as proposed by Simon Zadek and his colleagues, Chinese firms and the Chinese government have four options how to respond to these international sustainability standards: a) ignore them (not do anything, as long as they do not affect the competitiveness of Chinese firms), b) mitigate them (try to minimize the harm caused to the competitiveness of Chinese firms), c) promote an existing standard (if this standard can be shaped in a way to give Chinese firms a competitive advantage) or d) leverage a new standard (if this would create a competitive advantage for Chinese firms).

Ignoring or minimizing the impact of carbon standards and labels will be difficult: So far, relatively few Chinese companies use carbon standards, but requirements to move to low carbon production processes filter directly down the supply chain as international buyers become more environmentally conscious. So doing nothing may hurt the international competitiveness of Chinese firms, which tend to have relatively high carbon emissions at present.

In terms of promoting existing standards, large Chinese companies have started reporting on their greenhouse gas emissions (70% out of the largest 100 listed companies do so). Examples of companies actively engaging with their carbon footprints are China Mobile signing a Green Action Plan to reduce emissions in its supplier firms, and Lenovo setting reduction targets for emissions in its supply chain. Nevertheless, it is too early to tell if this signals a general move towards adoption of international carbon standards in China. In particular, firms producing for the domestic market may prefer to use a new low-carbon product labelling scheme that is being developed by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, which will be cheaper than paying for certification under international labels.

Leveraging new low carbon standards appears the most promising option for Chinese actors. These could be standards developed in China, or standards that Chinese actors have shaped through their engagement in international standard-setting processes. China has been developing its own sustainability standards in a range of sectors, and is currently preparing a low-carbon product labelling scheme. The first voluntary low carbon labelling standard was released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in 2010, and it differs from international standards by certifying a product as 'low carbon' if it meets certain emissions criteria, rather than indicating its quantitative carbon footprint. Recently, the first products have been certified. Chinese actors have also been actively involved in design of the ISO 26000 social responsibility guidelines, in contrast to their earlier reluctance to engage in international standard-setting fora. This shows a trend towards becoming standard-setter rather than standard-taker internationally.

Overall, dynamics around low carbon labels in China show that Rising Powers do not necessarily cause a race to the bottom on global sustainability standards. Rather, Chinese firms engage with international low carbon standards more widely than is often assumed. Chinese actors are also creating new domestic standards around carbon labelling, and are becoming increasingly active in international standard-setting processes. So low carbon standards are likely to be changed by Rising Powers such as China, but do not seem to become any less important in the future.

For more details, please refer to:
Brandi, C. (2014) Low-Carbon Standards and Labels in China, Oxford Development Studies, 42(2), pp. 172-189.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

The state and the enforcement of labor laws in Brazil

By Salo Coslovsky
image by S. Coslovsky
In a recent article in Oxford Development Studies, Salo Coslovsky examines how labour inspectors and prosecutors have addressed enforcement of labour regulation in four critical sectors in Brazil. This post summarises some of the findings.

The last decades have seen a trend of economic liberalisation, combined with an increase in international trade and foreign direct investment in many countries, including in Latin America. One might expect this to go hand in hand with a 'race to the bottom' in labour regulation, as (developing) countries compete for investment. But contrary to such expectations, domestic labour laws have been upheld in many developing countries, due to a variety of factors. Some of the reasons for this include social clauses in international trade agreements, for example between the US and developing countries, as well as an increase in voluntary private regulation, such as codes of conduct in which multinational companies commit to improve working conditions in their supply chains. Less attention has been paid to the roles of developing country governments in enforcing labour laws and promoting improvements in labour practices, as these are often portrayed as too weak or corrupt to take on such tasks.

However, the experience of Brazil shows that government actors in developing countries can play an important part in promoting labour standards in a context of economic liberalisation. Examples from four sectors in the Brazilian economy show how government officials have intervened successfully to improve working conditions, while preserving the economic competitiveness of companies. In all of these cases, labour inspectors and prosecutors have played key roles in monitoring, but also in promoting innovative solutions for compliance with national labour laws.

Charcoal production:
Slave-like working conditions were common among small charcoal producers in the Amazon that supplied larger iron smelters. These producers were difficult to grasp for labour inspectors because many were not officially registered as companies. Moreover, individual producer were under immense competitive pressure that made them unable to raise wages for workers.

In this context, labour inspectors and prosecutors found a creative solution, making use of the fact that the informal charcoal producers were supplying large iron smelters, and drawing on a provision in Brazilian law that made it possible to hold these to account for labour law violations in their supplier firms. As a result, iron smelters established long-term contracts with charcoal producers and created a separate organisation to monitor working conditions. Simultaneously, this resulted in improved outcomes for workers and in better quality of charcoal supplied to iron smelters.

image by S. Coslovsky
A similar situation with accusations of slave labour existed in the sugarcane industry. Harsh working conditions were particularly common in sugarcane harvest on small independent plantations, which relied on informal labour contractors to employ migrant workers during harvest times. As in the case of charcoal, labour inspectors made the larger sugar mills that bought sugarcane from these smaller producers legally responsible for violations of labour regulations in their supplier firms. This resulted in significant improvements in working conditions in the industry, even if some problems persist on small farms.

Short-term employment in agriculture:
Small farms producing a range of agricultural commodities throughout the country have a need for temporary workers during harvest season, but are unable to employ these on a permanent basis throughout the year. Again these farms often rely on labour contractors as intermediaries, who tend to disregard labour regulations to minimize costs.

An innovative way out of this dilemma was found through establishing employers' consortia among small farmers that would directly employ workers on a permanent basis. Labour inspectors played an important role in the emergence of these consortia, for example by convincing tax administrators not to prevent the economic feasibility of such arrangements by charging higher social security contributions to consortia than to individual farmers. Employed by various farmers collectively, these workers would switch workplaces across farms, but continued to have a stable contract in compliance with labour regulations throughout the year.

Firework production:
In the case of firework production, unsafe working practices were common and conditions worsened further as firework producers came under pressure from cheaper Chinese imports. In this case, labour inspectors and contractors enforced compliance by imposing fines, but government agencies also supported producers in upgrading to international quality standards. In addition, the government raised quality standards required in the Brazilian market for fireworks, which gave Brazilian producers temporary protection from Chinese imports unable to meet these technical standards. As a result, Brazilian fireworks producers improved both working conditions and quality of their products, resulting in higher export revenues.

Several insights emerge from these four case studies that may be relevant also for post-neoliberal states elsewhere that try to combine economic growth and export competitiveness with social welfare. First, outsourcing and subcontracting arrangements should be closely watched, as these often tend to be associated with circumventing or violating labour laws. Second, international pressures from buyers and governments in export markets are not the main drivers of improvements in working conditions, but they can nevertheless make important contributions to strengthening local efforts. Finally, labour inspectors and prosecutors, acting with a relatively high degree of autonomy and in cooperation with the judiciary, have made crucial contributions to the effective implementation of labour standards in Brazil. In doing so, they have combined threats of sanctions with support for innovative strategies to facilitate compliance for companies without putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

For more details, please refer to: 
Coslovsky, S.V. (2014) Flying Under the Radar? The State and the Enforcement of Labour Laws in BrazilOxford Development Studies, 42(2), pp. 190-216

Thursday 21 August 2014

Rising Powers' FDI in Europe: a threat or an opportunity?

By Elisa Giuliani, Sara Gorgoni, Christina Günther and Roberta Rabellotti

image by Stuart Miles/
In a recent paper in International Business Review, Elisa Giuliani, Sara Gorgoni, Christina Günther and Roberta Rabellotti explore the local impact of investment from Rising Power firms in Europe. This post summarises some of the findings.

As more and more firms from Rising Power countries invest in Europe, worries abound over the impact of such investment on the local economies. Some fear that Chinese, Indian or Brazilian companies will simply take over local companies, exploit their technology - and leave without creating lasting benefits for employment or economic growth in Europe. But are these concerns justified, or should foreign direct investment (FDI) from emerging economies be seen in a more positive light?

Looking at examples from Italy and Germany, we find that ‘predatory’ behaviour of Rising Power firms exists in some cases, but we also identify another type of FDI from these companies that creates mutual benefits for investors and for the economies they invest in. Moreover, multinational enterprises (MNEs) from emerging economies investing abroad are more likely to engage in local innovation networks and create win-win situations of mutual learning than MNEs from advanced economies.

Studying investment of emerging economy MNEs in Europe
The impact of investment from emerging economy MNEs in Europe is difficult to grasp within conventional analytical approaches in international business, which have focused on advanced economy MNEs investment in developing countries, assuming that multinationals investing abroad have superior technology. Therefore, the study develops a new typology of MNE subsidiaries, according to the direction of knowledge flows between headquarters and the subsidiary, and the extent to which subsidiaries participate in local innovation networks.

This typology is applied to 23 local subsidiaries of emerging economy MNEs in the industrial machinery and equipment sectors in Italy and Germany, comparing them to 24 subsidiaries of MNEs from advanced economies.

Three types of subsidiaries
Overall, we find that MNE subsidiaries can be divided into three main types, with significant differences between subsidiaries of advanced economy and emerging economy MNEs:

‘Passive subsidiaries’ of advanced economy MNEs 
‘Passive subsidiaries’ are mainly interested in accessing local markets. Decision-making tends to be centralized in the MNE’s headquarter and subsidiaries engage little in innovation activities. Within the sample studied, this category includes significantly more subsidiaries of advanced economy MNEs than subsidiaries of emerging economy MNEs.

‘Predatory subsidiaries’ vs. ‘dual subsidiaries’ of emerging economy MNEs
‘Predatory subsidiaries’ come close to the negative picture of emerging economy investment described earlier. Significantly more subsidiaries of emerging economy MNEs than advanced economy MNEs fall into this category. Put simply, they are seeking to acquire advanced technology by taking over companies in advanced economies, transferring knowledge to their headquarters without contributing much to innovation in the local economy. An important source of knowledge are local employees in the subsidiary, and learning takes place through personnel exchanges or joint product development projects between the subsidiary and the headquarter. While this seems to confirm some of the worries about Rising Powers’ investment in Europe, there is another type of FDI from emerging economies that has so far been overlooked in the debate.

‘Dual subsidiaries’ are similarly interested in acquiring advanced technology, and they are significantly more common among emerging economy MNEs than advanced economy MNEs. However, they differ from predatory subsidiaries because they actively engage in local innovation activities and cooperate in this with local firms and universities. These local networks allow mutual learning: On the one hand, local employees, supplier firms and universities are sources of knowledge for the MNE headquarters, but on the other hand, these local actors learn from new perspectives and experiences in emerging economy markets brought in by the investors. Hence, such cooperation is perceived as a win-win situation for the MNE and for local actors, rather than as an exploitation of local knowledge by the foreign investor in a ‘take and leave’ manner.

What impact does investment from Rising Powers' firms have?
To sum up, the results of the study show that FDI from emerging economy multinationals can be 'predatory', but it can equally have positive effects on the local economy, stimulating mutual knowledge exchange and local innovation. This sheds doubts on alarmist calls for caution about investors from these countries. To maximise benefits from emerging economy FDI, policy-makers in Europe should encourage networking among these investors and local actors involved in innovation, such as local companies and universities.

For more details, please see:
Giuliani, E., Gorgoni, S, Günther, C. & Rabellotti, R. (2014) Emerging versus advanced country MNEs investing in Europe: A typology of subsidiary global–local connections. International Business Review, 23(4), 680-691.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Will consumers in the Rising Powers buy Fair Trade?

image by Stuart Miles/
By Alejandro Guarín and Peter Knorringa

In their recent article in Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 42, No. 2, Alejandro Guarín and Peter Knorringa ask how new middle-class consumers in the Rising Powers will influence ethical consumption patterns and private standards on socially and environmentally responsible production.

Responsible consumption—in other words the demand for products that are good for the environment and for workers, such as fair trade or organic— is booming in Western countries. As global demand shifts to new consumer groups in emerging economies, will these look out for similar social and environmental product labels?

This depends, first of all, on how we define these new middle class consumers. There is no universal definition of the new middle classes, but the income range of 10 to 100 US dollars per day is often used. In developing countries this is a heterogeneous group of people, and it includes many that are relatively poor by Western standards. Many of these so-called middle class consumers are barely not poor, and risk falling back into poverty in times of economic crisis. Nevertheless, examples from countries such as China, India and Brazil show that, even at low income levels, these consumers make sophisticated decisions about how to spend their discretionary income. They’re not just fulfilling basic necessities.

However, it’s not clear that this ability for discretionary spending will translate into responsible consumption. It has frequently been assumed that responsible consumption is a luxury that only wealthy consumers can afford. It makes intuitive sense to think that you must first secure basic needs like food or shelter before worrying about the environment or social justice. But reality is more complicated. First, social and environmental concerns do not belong exclusively to the wealthy; many poor people in developing countries know and care about these issues too. Second, having those concerns is no guarantee that you’ll act on them. There is a big gap between what people say and what they do. The point is, we don’t know enough about the preferences and behaviours of consumers in the developing world. And to assume that they will simply mirror those of Western consumers is simply wrong.

How, then, to study this relationship between income, consumer preferences and their social and environmental implications? Looking at standards can help. Standards refer simply to the rules that govern what is produced in an economy, and how. Usually governments set the standards—for example with regard to health or to pollution—but in many cases companies set their own, voluntary standards. These private standards (such as “Fair trade”) are very important because it is what firms use to differentiate their products from others. Through their purchases, customers play an important part in shaping what standards appear and which are successful. But is this true in rising powers too?

In the article we propose a simple model (illustrated below) to analyse these relationships. On the vertical axis is people’s ability to pay for responsibly consumption, in other words their income. On the horizontal axis is their inclination or desire to consume responsibly, in other words their preferences.

Most of what we know tends to concentrate on relatively wealthy people, that is, around the top part of this diagram. Where purchasing ability meets high demand for social and environmentally responsible products (quadrant III), firms will tend to differentiate their products through private standards. Mandatory public and private standards on minimum product quality apply at lower levels of ethical demand (quadrant II), with less scope for product differentiation based on voluntary private standards.

We know little about what happens in the lower part of the diagram. Generally, no formal standards would be expected if low desire for responsible consumption coincides with low incomes (quadrant I); here informality prevails and seller’s reputation is established by personal interactions. If consumers are concerned about ethical issues but lack the means to afford higher priced, ethically certified products, government regulation may come in to ensure a minimum level of socially responsible firm behaviour.

The new middle classes in Rising Powers are located in the inner circle, moving between these different quadrants. A big question mark represents the need for further research about what roles private and public standards are likely play in the future. We could expect public standards to be more prominent if consumers are very sensitive to price, and voluntary private standards to play a greater role if consumers have a strong desire for responsible consumption as well as the financial means to afford a higher price for ethical products. But, as we have seen, we don’t know enough about the motivations and behaviours of consumers in developing countries to test whether this is the case or not.

In Western countries civil society has been a major force putting pressure on companies to adopt voluntary social and environmental standards. Society’s mobilization has often been needed for governments to set the public standards needed to protect consumers. Can we expect similar movements and organisations by consumers in Rising Powers? Or will there be other drivers of responsible production and consumption? The landscape is varied. Civil society mobilization in China looks very different to what it does in Brazil or in India, and the outcomes are not likely to converge.

Rising incomes among the new middle classes have the potential to stimulate new demands for socially and environmentally responsible consumption. However, there is no reason to assume that these will result in the same kinds of consumption patterns and the same kinds of social and environmental standards that we have seen in the West. How companies, states and consumers will respond to these trends present an exciting and largely unexplored field of research.

The questions addressed above are explored more in detail in Guarín, A. and P. Knorringa (2014), New Middle-Class Consumers in Rising Powers: Responsible Consumption and Private Standards, Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 151-171.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Are Rising Power Firms changing the rules of international business?

By Rudolf Sinkovics, Mo Yamin, Khalid Nadvi and Yingying Zhang

image by sheelamohan/

A special section in International Business Review, Volume 23, Issue 4, features 'Rising Powers from Emerging Markets – The Changing Face of International Business'. In their editorial, Rudolf Sinkovics, Mo Yamin, Khalid Nadvi and Yingying Zhang ask whether MNEs from emerging economies are Rising Powers that will change the way 
international business works.

Within broader discussions around the geopolitical and economic rise of large emerging economies, an International Business perspective allows a closer look at the role of new multinational enterprises (MNEs) from these countries, such as Huawei, Tata Motors or Petrobras. These companies are clearly rising and going international: smartphones made by Huawei from China can now be found in countries around the world, Tata Motors from India took over Jaguar Land Rover in the UK, and examples can be continued.

But are these emerging multinationals rising powers in the world of international business? A key question is whether emerging MNEs are simply imitating and catching up with MNEs from more advanced economies, or whether they should be seen as Rising Powers in the sense of challenging established business models and ways of competing in the international markets.

While much of this debate in international business sees emerging MNEs merely as 'copycats' following established international business strategies, more and more findings are calling for a rethink. An example of how emerging MNEs may fundamentally challenge the rules of how companies become successful internationally is the 'fight for the middle'. Companies increasingly compete for large numbers of customers with medium or low income in emerging markets. To be successful in these markets, it may not be necessary - or even be counterproductive - for companies to imitate leading Western MNEs and strive to upgrade production capabilities to compete with high-end products. New business models may be needed to win the fight for the middle - and MNEs from emerging markets may have a leading edge here over their established competitors from advanced economies. In their home markets, many of these new players have become successful with new products that are functional and affordable, even if they may not have all the latest features fashionable in high-end markets. This experience can be a huge advantage in middle and low income markets internationally. In contrast, MNEs from advanced economies would actually need to downgrade their ususal products to appeal to this customer range - which has been observed only rarely so far. Hence, new successful business strategies might be dominated by rising powers from emerging markets.

The contributions to the special section of International Business Review highlight different ways in which emerging MNEs and their business models potentially challenge the rules of international business. For instance, FDI strategies pursued by MNEs from emerging economies investing in Europe can make a stronger contribution to local innovation than FDI from advanced economies, as shown by Giuliani et al. Further, Sinkovics et al explore business formation at the bottom of the pyramid in rural India and draw potential lessons for business models of MNEs entering bottom of the pyramid markets in emerging economies. Other contributions investigate the changing roles of emerging economy firms in global value chains and global production networks: Azmeh and Nadvi find that large Asian manufacturers gain power in global apparel value chains; Liu and Zhang analyse learning processes that enable Taiwanese technology firms to take on different positions in global production networks; and Jean examine factors contributing to functional upgrading of Chinese technology firms in global value chains. Focusing on Chinese outward FDI, Kubny and Voss find differences in the local impact FDI between Chinese firms and MNEs from advanced economies in Vietnam; while Wei Hu and Cui identify corporate governance factors within large Chinese firms that influence their FDI decisions. Taken together, the articles in this special issue point towards a number of ways in which emerging economy MNEs may be changing the face of international business.

For more details, please refer to:
Sinkovics, Rudolf R., Mo Yamin, Khalid Nadvi, and Yingying Zhang Zhang (2014), "Rising powers from emerging markets—the changing face of international business," International Business Review, 23 (4), 675-679. (DOI: 10.1016/j.ibusrev.2014.04.001).

Direct links to individual articles in the special section can be found at the publisher's website or on the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures website.

Friday 18 July 2014

‘Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures’ Doctoral and Early Career Researchers Workshop

June 5, 2014, Manchester

On 5 June, for the first time PhD students and post-docs associated with the 12 research projects funded under the ESRC ‘Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures’ programme came together in Manchester. The early career researchers used the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange around their work on the Rising Powers, based in different disciplines but sharing a common curiosity about ongoing changes in and beyond these countries. In addition, the workshop provided an opportunity to interact with and receive feedback from Manchester-based academics working on the Rising Powers.

Starting out with a thought-provoking keynote speech on China as driver of a new form of globalisation, Professor Jeffrey Henderson (University of Bristol) set the scene for a day of discussion and exchange. Arguing that China is fundamentally changing the political and economic dimensions of globalisation, Professor Henderson also highlighted possible implications for developing countries that may experience greater financial scope to pursue own policy agendas, different from neoliberal approaches that previously characterised much of globalisation.

Broader discussions on the dynamics unfolding within the Rising Powers and their impact on other countries around the world were complemented with exchange around participants’ specific research projects in smaller thematic working groups. Reflecting the diversity of research projects under the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme, these projects cover issues within the Rising Power countries, such as different aspects of governance or national innovation systems, as well as the international involvement of Rising Power actors, including in global production networks as well as in agricultural and infrastructure projects in African countries.

Further, the workshop allowed room for informal exchange around fieldwork experiences and expectations in Brazil, China, India and Russia.

On the way forward, participants agreed to keep up communication through a mailing list and social media, to be able to further explore opportunities for cooperation among members of the network. They also decided to created a dedicated page on the website highlighting PhD and postdoc involvement in research around the Rising Powers programme.

Workshop documents:
Summary note
Keynote speech by Prof Jeffrey Henderson, University of Bristol (abstract)
Early Career Researchers webpage on the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures website

For more information and to be added to the PhD and Early Career Reseachers mailing list, please contact:

Thursday 17 July 2014

Will 'Rising Powers' lower global labour and environmental standards?

By Khalid Nadvi
image by
A recent special issue in Oxford Development Studies explores how new players from the Rising Powers (mot notably China, Brazil and India) may challenge the global ‘rules of the game’ on social and environmental issues. In his introductory article on "Rising Powers" and Labour and Environmental Standards, Khalid Nadvi outlines what makes the Rising Powers special and in what ways they affect global labour and environmental standards.

Who are the Rising Powers?
First, who are the Rising Powers and why should we care about them? The Rising Powers include the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa (often referred to as the BRICS) amongst others. They matter because of their expanding role as new drivers of growth in the world economy; their increasing significance not only as arenas for global production but also of consumption; their interdependent relationships with the rest of the world in terms of trade and capital flows and environmental impacts; their expanding clout in forums of geopolitical and global economic governance; and, their potential as ‘models’ of economic and social development for other developing and transition economies. Calling these countries "Rising Powers" is a matter of perspective and not unproblematic - after all some of them were historically key players in the world economy long before Western countries became rich and powerful. Nevertheless, over the past three decades, we are observing significant changes in the global economic and geopolitical power balance, with new (or re-emerging) players challenging the dominance of Western countries. In this context, there are six distinctive criteria that define a country as a Rising Power. These include:
  • strong economic growth since the 1990s 
  • significant participation in global trade 
  • a large domestic market 
  • strong state involvement in the economy 
  • availability of local private and public capital for investment 
  • growing space for civil society in public-private discourse 
These six factors make the Rising Powers different from other developing countries that have experienced strong economic growth and have caught up with more technologically advanced economies, such as South Korea. These characteristics also explain why Rising Powers may be able to change global governance dynamics around a variety of issues, including on labour and environmental standards.

How will the Rising Powers affect labour and environmental standards in the global economy?
image by wikimedia
Concerns about sweatshop labour, climate change and environmental pollution have prompted the adoption of labour and environmental standards in international trade over the past decades. This has been largely driven by governments, companies and civil society in Western countries. In contrast, some of the growth in Rising Powers like China occurred precisely because they started exporting cheap products, competing in the world market on low wages, and prioritising economic growth over social and environmental concerns. Does this mean that the Rising Powers will provoke a global ‘race to the bottom’ on labour and environmental standards? Or alternatively, as these countries become more prosperous, will domestic demands for better working conditions and environmental protection increase, and will this be reflected in a more active engagement by Rising Power states and firms in the global governance of labour and the environment?

The collection of articles in this special issue sheds light on different actors and processes within the Rising Powers that could potentially impact the global governance of labour and environmental standards. For instance, Guarín and Knorringa explore the influence of new middle class consumers on private standards, such as fair trade certification or environmental standards. Complementing this consumer-focused perspective, Brandi investigates how Chinese firms and government actors engage with international environmental standards on limiting carbon emissions. The articles by Coslovsky and by Peña on Brazil explore the enforcement of labour laws by the Brazilian government and the international engagement of Brazilian actors in private standard-setting networks on social and environmental issues, underlining the growing consensus around well enforced minimum norms in Brazilian society. In contrast, Mezzandri reminds us of the possible limits on improving social compliance through an in-depth study of Indian garment clusters.
image by Toa55/

Overall, the special issue highlights four areas that call for further research. First, consumers in the Rising Powers, particularly among the rapidly emerging new middle classes, may or may not attach importance to ethical aspects in their consumption decisions. Do these new consumers pay attention to ethically certified products? Second, Rising Power firms are increasingly taking on positions of lead firms in global value chains and global production networks. Will they come under similar pressure as many Western multinational companies to address social and environmental issues in their supply chains, and how will they respond to these? Third, civil society in the Rising Powers could potentially take on similar roles as Western NGOs running anti-sweatshop campaigns. Or will they address social and environmental issues very differently - or simply not be very important players at all? Finally, given the strong role of the state in the Rising Powers, governments are likely to be important players in setting rules on labour and the environment. How do these Rising Power states influence labour and environmental standards, both through national regulation and in global fora on social and environmental standards? These factors deserve further exploration in order to improve our understanding of how the Rising Powers influence the rules of the game on sustainability in international trade - and to find out whether Western concerns about a race to the bottom on labour and environmental standards are justified.

The special issue in Oxford Development Studies, Volume 42, Issue 2, 2014 aims to contribute to this debate. Links to individual articles can be found on the publisher's website or on the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures website.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Russia fieldwork on Emerging Technologies

By Maria Karaulova

The project on Emerging Technologies and Implications of Next Generation Innovation System Development is now actively engaging in field research. In March 2014, researchers from the Manchester team (Philip Shapira, Maria Karaulova and Oliver Shackleton) spent an intensive period in Moscow undertaking multiple team interviews with stakeholders and actors in the Russian innovation system. We were assisted by Elena Nasybulina and Angelina Petrushina from the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (ISSEK HSE), our project partner in Russia.

Russia is now at a critical stage in the development of its innovation system. Many reforms have been made, and a series of flagship projects have been announced aimed at developing Russia’s research and innovation capabilities in key areas of technology. One example of these flagship projects is Russnano – initiated about 5 years ago by then President Putin with the goal to foster technological and business breakthroughs in nanotechnology development. Russnano has received significant state-sponsored investment. Our field research sought to understand key changes in the Russian innovation system over the past few years, garner the perspectives of public, private, and academic representatives, and probe the performance and prospects of Russnano in nanotechnology and other programmes in other emerging technologies.

With two teams in the field, we completed 24 interviews in Moscow over a two-week period. A wide-ranging picture emerged. We met scientists actively engaging in innovation activities, as well as other researchers who saw no value in commercialisation. We encountered enthusiast entrepreneurs and frustrated entrepreneurs. We met with officials to discuss developments at Russnano (which has redirected its activities towards an array of innovation investments) and Skolkovo (the still “in progress” high technology cluster planned at one of Moscow’s edges). We spoke with members of the Academy of Sciences upset by recent changes in their organisation, and with government officials overseeing these changes. We learned about national Russian technology platform initiatives and interviewed city innovation and high technology park managers keen to foster local development. We held meetings with project colleagues in Moscow, including Dr. Alexander Sokolov from HSE and Ian Miles from Manchester to discuss preliminary findings, trends and next steps. We also managed to participate in extra events: Philip Shapira chaired a panel and presented at the XV April Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development in Moscow; Maria Karaulova participated at the “Nanotechnologies to the Industry - 2014" Conference with a poster contribution. Over the coming year, we plan further fieldwork in Russia, to continue to track developments in Moscow and to examine what is happening in other parts of the country.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Rising Powers researchers show solidarity with Alexander Sodiqov on Twitter

Researchers show solidarity with Alexander Sodiqov​, a PhD student from Toronto University and a co-investigator in the "Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia" project, who has been detained while doing fieldwork in Tajikistan and is now facing treason charges.

See also the statements of support by the Principal Investigators and by PhD and Early Career Researchers associated to the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures network.

#FreeAlexSodiqov at University of Manchester, 2 July 2014:
University of Manchester researchers show solidarity with Alex Sodiqov

#FreeAlexSodiqov at University of Essex, 27 June 2014:
University of Exeter Politics Department show solidarity with Alex Sodiqov

Monday 30 June 2014

China fieldwork on Emerging Technologies

By Yanchao Li

In a round of in-country fieldwork for the Rising Powers project on Emerging Technologies and Implications of Next Generation Innovation System Development, a group of researchers carried out a series of interviews and visits in China in May 2014. The research team included Philip Shapira and Yanchao Li (University of Manchester), Alan Harding (University of Liverpool), Jan Youtie (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Jie Ren (Beijing Institute of Technology). The research team sought a first-hand understanding of China’s innovation system dynamics in transition with a special focus on the role played by emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and graphene. On the China side, colleagues from our project partner, the Beijing Institute of Technology, supported the trip with additional support from Xi’an Jiao Tong – Liverpool University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Extensive preparation work was conducted beforehand to select and approach interview participants; eventually the researchers (working in parallel teams) completed 29 interviews with industry, government, academia, and intermediary bodies. Fieldwork interviews were concentrated in Beijing (the national capital and a massive metropolitan agglomeration of business and research activities) and Jiangsu (a rapidly growing and leading region of innovation in southern China). Among the interviews, we spoke with representatives of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and related agencies, the Zhongguancun National Innovation Demonstration Zone Administration Committee and some of its tenant firms, the Suzhou Industrial Park Administration Committee and some of its tenant firms, Nanopolis and Biobay Suzhou, and academic institutions such as Peking University and China Academy of Sciences. One interview team went to Changzhou city to visit the Jiangnan Graphene Research Institute (JGRI), a local government funded institute focused on applied graphene research and commercialization, and the Sixth Element Inc., a start-up associated with JGRI and specialized in making graphene powder materials. The team also visited the huge new graphene research and industry complex now in advanced stages of construction in Changzhou.

In Shanghai, the research team piloted a different approach by organizing a focus group workshop – the International Workshop on Scenarios for Emerging Technologies and Implications of Next Generation Innovation System Development in China, held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on May 15, 2014. The workshop took a semi-structured form, engaging a group of 12 invited participants from academia and industry in open discussion and breakout groups on issues and opportunities facing the current and future Chinese innovation system. Participants were highly engaged, and keen to discuss and express their views: in short, the workshop was very successful.

Team members also participated in a Beijing lab meeting of the Innovation Co-Lab (University of Manchester, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Beijing Institute of Technology), and presented papers at the International Workshop on the Management of Innovation and Technology and Data Science organized by Zhejiang University. Team members also contributed to the 2014 International Forum on Enterprise Technology Innovation Management and Information Strategy – Innovation and Industry & Information Technology Integration organized by Beijing Institute of Technology. Further project fieldwork in China is planned over the next year.