Monday 24 October 2016

How do Rising Powers Shape Global Innovation?

On 6-7 October 2016, the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme hosted a thematic workshop to discuss the roles of rising powers in shaping global innovation. Our policy brief summarises the findings and practical implications that come out of different projects under the ESRC programme working on the theme of innovation.

How do Rising Powers Shape
 Global Innovation?

Overall, the research findings discussed at the workshop underline that the Rising Powers, such as China, India, and Russia, represent one of the key drivers of global economic and social change today. Notwithstanding recent short-run fluctuations in economic growth, these Rising Powers are becoming increasingly important players in global innovation. Non-Western models of innovation challenge Western approaches to research and development in some areas, but also offer opportunities for research cooperation and technology transfer.

The emergence of Rising Powers as global players in key technologies, but also the need to look more closely at the differences between them, can be seen from the findings of our project on Innovation Systems Development in China and Russia. Both China and Russia have undergone periods of market reform and developed new strategic goals for their innovation policies that show some parallels, for instance in the field of nanotechnology. Despite these similarities China appears to be more clearly on a path to becoming a world-leading country on innovation than Russia. For the UK, innovation developments in China, as well as in other Rising Powers countries, can present new collaboration opportunities although they also heighten competition for leadership and global market success in emerging and advanced technologies. 

This is also apparent from the research presented by our project at King’s College London on state strategiesof governance in global biomedical innovation in China and India. The emergence of bioinformatics, meaning tools that make biology legible with the help of computer science, is changing the way science works. This opens new opportunities for Rising Power countries to establish themselves in this new territory. Western models of innovation have dominated global research on bioinformatics, but increasing engagement of Rising Powers such as China and India in the area of bioinformatics could challenge established norms and practices of research in Western countries. Effective regulation of biomedical research in the UK needs to take into account stem cell therapy in countries such as China and India, different emerging national and international governance approaches for innovation, as well as data and incentives issues. 

Finally, looking beyond the Rising Powers’ impact on developed country innovation systems, their investment in innovation offers opportunities for South-South technology transfer and addressing key global development challenges such as climate change. Our project based at SOAS explores these dynamics in its comparativestudy of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia. Findings show that Chinese investment into low carbon energy in developing countries offers opportunities for technology transfer and mitigation of climate change. In addition, its development impact could be further enhanced by strengthening social safeguards and environmental impact assessments. Watch the video on the project's findings here:

As a collection, our projects show that the Rising Powers’ engagement in innovation has a profound impact beyond their borders, both in the UK and globally. Within the UK, policies on research and innovation need to take innovation dynamics in countries such as China, Russia, and India into account to be effective. Globally, innovation and technology transfer from the Rising Powers has the potential to address key policy challenges such as climate change, provided that social and economic side effects of South-South investment projects are dealt with effectively.

For more details, please refer to the full thematic policy brief on 'How do Rising Powers shape Global Innovation?' produced by the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme. 

For a more general overview of the findings of all 12 research projects under the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme, please have a look at our briefing on 'How do Rising Powers Drive Global Change?'.

Monday 17 October 2016

Rising Powers at the DSA 2016: China and the rising powers as development actors

By Corinna Braun-Munzinger 

The Rising Powers Study Group of the Development Studies Association (DSA) and the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme jointly convened a full-day panel at the DSA annual conference in Oxford on 13 September, titled “China and the rising powers as development actors: looking across, looking back, looking forward”. These issues were approached from various angles – ranging from a macro perspective on fundamental shifts in the global world order to the micro-level perceptions of individual development workers in South-South cooperation.

The discussions began from a broad perspective on how the rising powers influence development prospects globally. Rory Horner, University of Manchester, started out by tracing how the traditional distinction between developed and developing countries has become blurred as a result of the emergence of the rising powers, calling for more research on a beginning new era of more universal, global development. Albert Sanghoon Park, University of Cambridge, complemented this forward-looking perspective by taking a look back at the historical geopolitical patterns underlying the developed-developing country dichotomy since the 1940s. Seen from this angle, possible tensions between the ideals and the geopolitics of development are neither new, nor are they likely to disappear with the rising powers taking on stronger roles in shaping global development. Following from these broader thoughts, Anna Wrobel, University of Warsaw focused on trade policy as one specific aspect in which China engages in shaping the global economic order, both through the WTO and through bilateral agreements.

The main theme discussed throughout the day focused more specifically on rising powers’ engagement in South-South cooperation, in particular looking at China and Brazil. One particular strength of the panel was that it brought together diverse primary insights from interviews with individual practitioners engaged in such South-South cooperation projects that again help looking back and looking forward.

Looking back, South-South cooperation continues to be influenced by the past. Susanne Ress, Humboldt University Berlin, and Katia Taela, University of Sussex, showed how transatlantic slavery and the historically complex relations between Brazil and Mozambique still affect Brazilian development workers’ perceptions and discourses today. Juliet Lu, University of California, Berkley, discussed how China’s own development experiences shape Chinese investment in rubber in Southeast Asia.

Looking forward, new principles of international cooperation seem to be emerging with the rising powers. Looking at Brazil and Venezuela’s engagement in Caribbean countries, Bethany Tasker, UCL, found that the rhetoric around new principles of solidarity, respect for sovereignty, mutual benefit and partnership was generally believed and seen in South-South cooperation on the ground, even though frustration could emerge in instances where these principles were not met. Similarly, in Chinese cooperation with Tanzania, Xiuli Xu, China Agricultural University found a new paradigm of South-South cooperation based on mutual learning and sharing of development experiences.

However, despite these new principles of partnership, asymmetries between cooperation partners remain. Examples of these appeared in several presentations on China’s interactions with individual countries and with regional institutions on the African continent. On the one hand, Folashade Soule-Kohndou, Sciences Po Paris, discussed the challenges small African countries like Benin face in negotiations with China as a much larger partner and highlighted how and when smaller partners can nevertheless exert agency in such asymmetric relations. On the other hand, contributions from Georg Lammich, University Duisburg-Essen, and Han Cheng, Cambridge University, both highlighted a shift in China-Africa cooperation from the bilateral to the regional level, in particular through the African Union, potentially creating different types of asymmetries of country-to-continent cooperation.

Finally, another aspect that was apparent throughout several presentations is the wide diversity of actors engaged in South-South cooperation. While public discussions of South-South cooperation often paint a straightforward picture of state-to-state cooperation, a closer look shows that things are much more complex. Not only does cooperation take place between government agencies at regional, national and local levels, but also private sector and civil society are playing an active part. For example, Wei Shen’s, Institute of Development Studies, case study highlights opportunities and challenges of private Chinese investment in the South African renewable energy sector. Adding further to the complexity of actors involved, Timothy Hildebrandt, London School of Economics and Political Science, offered a conceptualisation of government organised non-government organisations (GONGOs), which are important in Chinese development cooperation but may not be unique to China.

Overall, the panel highlighted various way in which the rising powers are actively engaging in shaping the landscape of development globally. Nevertheless, presentations also cast some doubt on whether rising powers are necessarily different from established Western powers in all aspects of development cooperation. On the one hand, paradigms seem to be changing, emphasising the mutual learning and partnership aspects of international cooperation, at a time where the distinctions between developing and developed countries are increasingly becoming blurred and new institutions of South-South cooperation are emerging such as FOCAC. On the other hand, some patterns seem to persist, for example geopolitics seems to be an important driver for international engagement for rising powers and Western countries alike, and rising powers are participating in dialogue on global rules in existing fora such as the WTO. Time and further research may be able to tell to what extent the emergence of the rising powers as development actors changes the nature of development and development cooperation that we have experienced so far.

Many of these issues are discussed further in specific research projects under the ESRC Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures programme and in the framework of the DSA Rising Powers Study group.