The structure, growth and governance mechanisms of regional innovation systems: a comparative study of Yangtze River Delta, China and the State of Victoria, Australia

This joint PhD project is based at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University with a minimum 12 month stay at The University of Melbourne. Please note the deadlines associated with SJTU admission eligibility and requirements.

Project description
Innovation underpins economic growth and social prosperity, which does not happen in isolation but relies   on a supporting ecosystem as highlighted in the annual Australian Innovation System Report. A functional regional innovation system (RIS) provides such an ecosystem, but little is known about its potential structure and growth trajectory, nor the governance mechanisms to support its resilience. This PhD project aims to shed light on nurturing a functional RIS through a better understanding of its

structure, growth, and governance mechanisms. Yangtze River Delta and the State of Victoria are chosen as case studies, investigated through a mixed quantitative- qualitative method.

The regional innovation system (RIS), specifically, is proposed at a more suitable geographical scale to unpack the innovation process (Miao & Luo, forthcoming). Yet its adoption in policy-making circles is scarce and fragmented because:

  1. A holistic framework on the structure of RIS is missing: Earlier studies merely outlined a core-periphery structure without detailing the inter-system networks. Recent progress remains fragmented into three viewpoints, represented by Cooke (2000)’s governance perspective; Markusen (1996)’s input–output chain analysis; and Miao (2020b)’s focus on leadership. All three approaches unveil a partial picture of RIS, hence a holistic framework synthesising these different perspectives is needed.
  2. No consensus on the growth mechanism of RIS. Extant studies have offered insights towards microlevel dynamics based on company and/or sectorial analysis, but failed to unveil satisfactorily the growth trajectory of a RIS (Luo & Sun 2020), which however, is crucial to understand the resilience of a system to crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s Innovation System Report, for example, covers static indicators but says little about why changes happen, calling for in-depth study in this regard.
  3. The governance mechanisms of RIS are understudied. Limited knowledge on the structure and growth of RIS has resulted in its inefficient support worldwide. Very coarsely, Cooke (2004) distinguished between bottom-up and top-down RISs to exemplify the relationship between national and regional governments. But as discussed in Miao and Luo (forthcoming), there are variegated actors embedding in, and interacting through, multilayers of the innovation process. The aggregated effect will influence and be influenced by the governance mechanism of a RIS.

Therefore, a comprehensive definition and measurement structure of RIS governance is needed to better compare and improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

Research aim

This project aims to shed light on nurturing a functional RIS through a better understanding of its structure, growth, and governance mechanisms, drawing upon case studies of the Yangtze River Delta, China and the State of Victoria, Australia.

Research questions

  1. What are the structures of the RIS emerged in Yangtze River Delta, China and the State of Victoria, Australia?
  2. What are their evolutionary trajectories and growth mechanisms?
  3. How are these RISs governed and how effective are these governance structures?
  4. What are the lessons to be drawn?

The project will be complemented by the project on Housing the creative workers: a comparative study of Shanghai and Melbourne and the collaboration will ensure a successful completion of the project.

Supervision team:

Professor Zhiwei Lian (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)

Dr Julie Tian Miao (The University of Melbourne)

How to apply

If you are interested in this opportunity, read the application guidelines before contacting the lead supervisor.