Decline of the center: The decentralizing process of knowledge transfer of Chinese universities from 1985 to 2004
University knowledge transfer, which contains both codified and non-codified knowledge, is an important source of industry innovativeness. The geographic constraint on university knowledge flows, which is commonly observed in Western countries, makes proximity with universities a big plus in creating learning regions. No systematic study has been conducted in China regarding such geographic constraint on knowledge transfer and its implications on China's nation and regional innovation systems. Taking advantage of the Chinese patent data, this paper examines the geographic variations in university-industry collaborations in China from 1985 to 2004 and shows a decentralizing/localizing trend in knowledge flows from university to industry. The blockmodel analysis further reveals the roles of different provinces and municipalities in the National Innovation System and how those had changed over time. Besides showing a vivid picture of the knowledge exchange patterns among Chinese provinces and municipalities, the results suggest that the geographic constraint on knowledge flows only becomes salient in China in recent years due to the administrative decentralization and the economic reform. As a result of these changes, less favored regions are further left behind not only due to their shortage of local university resources, but also because of the reduced extra-local knowledge support, which constitutes an important supplemental resource for regional development.
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