Economic growth grounds on the capacity of regional economies to change and innovate . Regions and cities have become the primary spatial units where knowledge is transferred, innovation systems are built and competition to attract investments and talents takes place. Innovation and research policies are initiated at several levels: European, national, regional and local. However, regions are the most suitable level for stimulating innovation, and – in fact – many regional governments have important competences and budgets in this field. The role of regions as stimulator and co-ordinator of regional innovation systems is crucial, while a good co-ordination between national and regional policies is necessary. However, there seems to be not a one-size-fits-all strategy for setting the best level of decentralisation to support regional innovation in each Member State. Cohesion policy plays a key role in supporting regional innovation, helping regions to implement regional innovation strategies (RIS) and smart specialisation actions based on cooperation between industry, university and government (Triple-Helix). In the EU, there is a considerable diversity in regional innovation performance not only across member states, but also within themselves. Several CETREGIO activities carried out in Europe and China have focused on the regional innovation issue.
In China, the technological capabilities in the broader Chinese industrial sector remain at a moderate level. Economic development still depends on upgraded but still labour intensive production . The Chinese innovation system is characterised by fragmentation and a technological and organisational mismatch between its main domestic players . Partly different from Europe, innovation is highly concentrated in Beijing and certain coastal areas like Tianjin, Guangdong, Jiangxi and Shanghai. In its twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), China lists the promotion of scientific and technological progress and innovation as a major tool for supporting strategic economic restructuring, while aiming to be the world’s scientific leader by 2050. China’s provinces and cities are keen to contribute to the drive towards innovation and several of China’s companies have emerged as able innovators. According to the Innovation Scoreboard 2013, the EU27 is performing better than China in most indicators.
Within the CETREGIO programme, European delegates have been able to establish direct relations with several innovation hubs in China, including the Beijing E-Town, Tianjin Economic Development Areas (TEDA), Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Industrial Park and the Guangzhou Development Districts (GDD).