PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (6): 897-910.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.06.001

• Articles •     Next Articles

Technology-introduction pattern of cities in China and its mechanism of change based on technology relatedness and complexity

JIN Zerun(), ZHU Shengjun*()   

  1. Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2020-08-19 Revised:2020-12-19 Online:2021-06-28 Published:2021-08-28
  • Contact: ZHU Shengjun;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971154);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41701115);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41731278)


"Development driven by innovation" is an important strategy of the Chinese government. This study used data including inter-city patent transfer from China Intellectual Property Office for 2017 and 2018 to explore the technology-introduction pattern of cities in China from the perspective of technology relatedness and complexity, using Gephi, ArcGIS, and Stata. This study hypothesized that: 1) cities tend to introduce technologies highly related to local knowledge structure; 2) the more complex a technology is, the less opportunity that cities will introduce it; and 3) the relatedness of a technology will mitigate the effect of its complexity on technology transfer. Based on the average relatedness and average complexity of technologies introduced in each city, this study identified four technology-introduction patterns, which are "high relatedness and high complexity", "low relatedness and high complexity", "low relatedness and low complexity", and "high relatedness and low complexity". Furthermore, unique mechanisms of change exist for different technology-introduction patterns. This study found that the complexity of introduced technologies increases with the economic development stage of the city, while the relatedness of that displays an inverse U-shaped mode. Hence, we divided technology introduction into three stages according to the level of urban development: 1) the learning stage dominated by low relatedness, 2) the reinforcing stage dominated by the increase in relatedness, and 3) the leaping stage dominated by diversification into unfamiliar technology fields. The empirical results show that in general, the increase in technological relatedness and the decrease in complexity of a technology will promote cities to introduce the technology, and the increase in relatedness will encourage cities to introduce more complex technology in that field. Additionally, the mechanism of change was tested through regression by groups—cities were sorted into four groups by their GDP per capita and population density, then we performed regression on technological relatedness and complexity respectively, which shows that the coefficient of relatedness lost significance in the most developed 25% cities, while it remained robust in the other three groups. The coefficient of complexity similarly lost significance in the most developed 50% cities. These results jointly verify the hypothesis of three technology-introduction stages. This study analyzed the pattern of technology-introduction empirically, stressing on the importance of relatedness and complexity in innovation research, which offers a grounded reference for guiding the innovation development path of cities.

Key words: technology transfer, relatedness, complexity, mechanism of change, China