PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (6): 925-936.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.06.003

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Spatial evolution and mechanism of knowledge gatekeepers in the Yangtze River Delta region

LI Yuyang1,2(), GU Renxu1,2,*(), WANG Tengfei1,2, BI Xuecheng1,2   

  1. 1. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2. The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2020-09-22 Revised:2020-12-04 Online:2021-06-28 Published:2021-08-28
  • Contact: GU Renxu;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971160);Outstanding Scholar Cultivation Project of East China Normal University(WLKXJ202009)


Regional innovation depends on the flow and combination of different knowledge. Knowledge gatekeepers spread the acquired external knowledge to the region and play a key role in regional innovation. However, the role of knowledge gatekeepers in different regional contexts remains to be discussed. Based on the patent cooperation data from 2001 to 2015, this study used social network analysis to identify knowledge gatekeepers in the Yangtze River Delta and measure its contribution rate. It then analyzed the spatial variation characteristics of quantity and contribution rate. Furthermore, this study used regression models to explore the importance of gatekeepers in cities with different knowledge bases. The results show that: 1) The proportion of enterprises among gatekeepers in the Yangtze River Delta has increased, but the contribution of gatekeepers is still dominated by universities. The openness of colleges and universities enables them to perform their functions as knowledge gatekeepers better than enterprises. Cities with a large number of gatekeepers in the Yangtze River Delta are concentrated in the Shanghai-Nanjing-Hefei-Hangzhou-Ningbo development zone, and the contribution rate of knowledge gatekeepers presents a core-periphery structure. Gatekeepers can promote and restrict the acquisition of external knowledge. Hangzhou and Shanghai, where gatekeeper contribution rate was high at the early stages, increased direct external contacts to improve the efficiency of knowledge absorption and dissemination. Other cities with low gatekeeper contribution rates continue to rely on the role of gatekeepers. 2) External linkages of cities have a significant positive impact on the renewal of urban knowledge and the mechanism of knowledge gatekeepers on urban knowledge renewal is spatially heterogeneous. Cities with specialized knowledge bases rely more on external connections through gatekeepers. They need gatekeepers to access, absorb, and use external knowledge. In order to reduce the noise in knowledge flow, cities with diversified knowledge base tend to obtain external knowledge by direct connection. The results of this study provide a policy support for regional collaborative innovation by indicating that regional knowledge renewal should be suitable for the cities of concern, and promote the regional endogenous growth model driven by knowledge spillover.

Key words: knowledge gatekeeper, social network analysis, knowledge base, knowledge renewal, Yangtze River Delta