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Track 5.5 : The New Silk Road of Innovation: Knowledge flow, R&D networks, and open innovation.

Chen JIN, Prof., Tsinghua University, 
Alberto DI MININ, Prof. Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna - Pisa 
Tim MINSHALL, Prof., University of Cambridge
Su YU-SHAN, Prof., Taiwan Normal University
Xue LAN, Prof., Tsinghua University;
Zhou YUAN, Prof., Tsinghua University
Antonio CRUPI, Dr., Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Pisa – corresponding chair 

Track's : 


The present track is connected to a call for a special issue on the R&D Management Journal and it is promoted by the Guest editors of the call. The Silk Road connected the East and West for almost 2000 years providing the network of trade routes and the knowledge interactions that diffused great innovations such as paper, printing, and gunpowder. With the decay of East Asian civilization, the Silk Road declines and fades out. The technological knowledge links, between the East and West, become intermittent and unidirectional from the Western to the Oriental countries. The recent rise of East Asia has changed the context starting a reverse knowledge flows, which challenges the existing models. The Chinese Government launched, in 2013, the “One Belt One Road” initiative an ambitious program to re-connect Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Europe economically, politically and socially. Innovation collaborations and transfer are crucial factors so the track aims to explore the possible impacts of this “New Silk Road of Innovation”.

The dynamics of collaboration are classified into, at least, three perspectives. Firstly, the “New Silk Road” generates opportunities to develop new R&D networks because it involves a large number of countries with various research institutions that cooperate. Secondly, it may also have a far-reaching impact on how knowledge diffuses among Asia, Europe, and Africa. Usually, latecomer countries attempt to catch up acquiring production equipment based on which they learn manufacturing know-hows (or tacit knowledge). However, recently, the fast development of Eastern economies provides good “window opportunities” for traditional technology-followers to catch up or even leapfrogging, so their demands on lead-edge science and technology help to form the basis for science-technology based innovation locally, which involves the new ways of cross-border knowledge diffusions within these regions. 

Finally, the “New Silk Road” represents an opportunity to explore East-West open innovation practices. Traditionally, iconic open innovation mainly happens in advanced countries (Westerns firms working with Western universities), and then spillover over to Asian firms which would continue to improve the process for cost reduction and manufacturing efficiency so that they can produce in scale, while Asian universities barely play with their own. The growth of national innovation system of Eastern economies provides new enabling factors for Eastern firms augment inbound and outbound knowledge flows with local universities for original innovations. Digital-age technologies (e.g. big data, smart manufacturing, 3D printing, etc.) also bring significant changes on how Eastern firms and universities can innovate together – the alliances, innovation ecosystems, and the triple helix along the “New Silk Road” are being significantly re-framed. 

The “New Silk Road” poses new opportunities to studies on R&D networks, knowledge diffusions, and open innovation and in the track, we aim to explore some linked research questions.