Open Innovation in China

Today’s technologies of information (from mobile devices to online networks) and their uses are shaping new ways to build geographic spaces as social territories. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) has also brought a new configuration for the economy of knowledge, where spaces and places can now be considered as “connected spaces of innovation”. Pursuing Castells’s works (1989) about informational cities, we want here to consider how particular organisations and places are structuring distributive forms of innovative practices.

In China, the pace of industrial growth has led to the appearance of the “shanzhai” culture, where geographical clusters of small-size companies of makers are manufacturing counterfeit goods or cheap imitation of international branded products – especially digital devices and electronics. This process of localized production has been adapting quickly to market changes, producing new forms of innovation and design for technology (Keane & Zhao, 2012).

Those physical spaces are also hubs for virtual social networks that distribute widely intelligence and knowledge through colleagues and members of the same industry. This distribution of design, organizational processes and operational practices has been largely mediated through ITC (information sharing, reverse engineering of technical schemas, rapid prototyping technics, etc.)

This blog wants to take inventory and analyze the models of emerging urban spaces that play or have played a synaptic role between virtual and physical worlds within new modes of “industrial organization” of innovation in China. We will focus on places, organizations and communities based on the following criterions:

  • Their territorialized industrial forms (fablab, techshops, hackerspaces, vertical clusters of companies…)
  • Their governance of distributed innovation:
  • distributed through new engineering practices and modus operandi – open bill, open date, agile management…; distributed through new forms of business models; distributed through new ways of managing skills and knowledge

What are the key features of organizations and communities that take part in a distributed innovation system?How do they relate to places and territories? How is knowledge produced and distributed in an ecosystem of innovation?

This research blog will investigate the field of China’s emerging economy to  provide new understandings of models and practices of distributed innovation.



Castells, M. (1989). The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process. (Blackwell, Ed.). Cambridge, {MA}: Oxford, {UK}.

Keane, M., & Zhao, E. J. (2012). Renegades on the Frontier of Innovation: The Shanzhai Grassroots Communities of Shenzhen in China’s Creative Economy. Geography, 53(2), 216–230. Retrieved


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