Upgrading of Symbolic and Synthetic Knowledge Bases: Analysis of the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry and the Automotive Industry in China
The degree and the way of upgrading differ widely per industry. This article tries to give some new insights in these differences by linking the concept of upgrading to that of the knowledge base. Moreover, we try to identify barriers to upgrading as well as the appropriate spatial scale on which upgrading takes place, again for different knowledge bases. We support our argument by analysing the process of upgrading in two industries in China: the AEC industry (in Beijing and Shanghai) and the automotive industry (in Shanghai). Within these industries we focus on upgrading on two levels: within firms and within projects. Our findings for both industries suggest that the principal ways of upgrading of the symbolic knowledge base are joint brainstorming in internal and external project teams and labour mobility. Major factors that hinder the upgrading of symbolic knowledge include the development stage of China, the Chinese educational system and tensions about duplication of western designs. Upgrading of the synthetic knowledge base takes mainly place via inter-company training programmes of foreign firms, technology transfer and labour mobility on the long run. A possible barrier for upgrading of synthetic knowledge, especially in the automotive industry, is that foreign firms tend to keep certain engineering activities in their home base because of the risk of knowledge leakage. However, this is changing quickly as many foreign carmakers and their suppliers invest in engineering centres in China due to an increasing demand for cars, to governmental regulations and to intensifying competition.
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