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What is a technology innovation center? And what is not a technology innovation center?
Source:Jiefang Daily    Writer:admin    Released on:2015-10-10    

Shanghai is accelerating its pace of building a technology innovation center with global influence. This seems to be a clear concept, but is it so clear in the minds of all its builders? As one of the speakers of the 2015 Pujiang Innovation Forum, Professor Zhu Dajian, Director of the Institute of Governance for Sustainable Development, Tongji University, recently accepted exclusive interview and answered the questions on what is a technology innovation center, why it should be built and how it will be built.

An innovation-oriented city is not a city of technology innovation center
From labor-driven, capital-driven, innovation-driven to more advanced quality-of-life-driven, the urban development mode is experiencing a round of rotation. Many cities in China are turning to the innovation-driven mode and the factor input-output efficiency is expected to be raised considerably.
But in Zhu Dajian’s point of view, an innovation-oriented city is not equal to a technology innovation center – the former means inside or itself, but the latter definitely has spillover effect on its outside. He thinks when considering a city of technology innovation center, we must take into account not only its technology output, but also its spillover effect, and see if such spillover output is higher than the average value of other cities, or takes a large proportion in the region. ‘The technology innovation center is outstanding, is the top one among the innovation-oriented cities, and the key is its influence on the outside.’

A region of technology innovation center in not necessarily just a single center
As an expert of regional economy, Zhu Dajian thinks that a global technology innovation center is not necessarily the only one in the region. The most typical example is the ‘Boston-New York-Washington’ Region along the Northeast Coast of the United States of America, which forms a cluster of large cities in the world. ‘Even in the same metropolitan region, we can say, there can be more than one technology innovation center.’ Another example of global technology innovation center is in the West Coast of the United States of America, the Silicon Valley and the large cities linked to it, like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.This means that a technology innovation center with global influence must be the leading and outstanding city in a region, but supported by others inland. It can not develop alone and own the complete supply chain and value chain exclusively. Therefore, the Yangtze Delta Metropolitan Region where Shanghai locates in is also an innovative city cluster of enormous scale.
At the same time, Zhu Dajian said that Shanghai, as a city of technology innovation center, should exerts its influence toward two sectors – toward inside, the Yangtze Delta, the Yangtze Economic Belt, and the One Belt and One Road; and toward outside, its international influence and its interaction with global technology innovation centers.

We want Innovation, but not those that follow others and are low-level
‘There are at least 3 types of innovation.’ Zhu Dajian thinks that Shanghai does not lack sustaining innovation, and such innovation just makes some improvements along the same direction and is not disruptive or revolutionary. Shanghai, as a technology innovation center, should make leading innovation at higher level. The innovation that Shanghai lacks most is the following 2 types.
One is the innovation promoted by its origin. Shanghai has a large number of institutions of higher learning, but that does not necessarily equal to a technology center. ‘Innovation is, in fact, an economic concept. Only when the technological achievement has been turned to productivity, can it be defined as real innovation.’ For institutions of higher learning, if their research is a process of turning money to knowledge, then innovation is the process of turning knowledge to money.
The other is the innovation that meets the market needs. He raised an example, the ‘Living Lab’ based on ‘innovation 2.0’, a concept raised by some old developed countries in West Europe. It is actually the user-oriented innovation labs that take public needs into their innovative R & D or even let the public participate in their innovation. It achieves the same goal through a way different from the ‘mass entrepreneurship and innovation’. It turns the previous, too academic innovation to more life-related and open innovative experiments.

If you want talents, you must have an environment as inclusive as the rain forest to attract talents
A technology innovation center definitely needs talents – students graduated from universities, or company employees, or scientific researchers? In Zhu Dajian’s point of view, the most needed talents are those who cross the business and academic boundaries. ‘Do we have scientists who understand enterprises, or entrepreneurs who understand sciences? ’ He said that in fact the spirit of the scientists is not writing theses for publication, and the spirit of the entrepreneurs is not installing the assembly lines for mass production.
Talents are inseparable from environment. Zhu Dajian pointed out that some opinions at present about technology innovation centers usually focus on just one simple factor like talents, or capital, or policies. While in fact, such simple causal relationship does not exist. Any technology innovation center is definitely formed by multiple factor in a natural way. ‘In the past, it was ”People Follow Business”, while today it is “Business Follow People”.’ And the environmental factor that decides the talent gathering should be a combination of multiple elements.
Zhu Dajian use the ‘rain forest’ as an analogy to the environment that attracts talents. Rain forest is a remote, wild and highly inclusive place. It may be in a state of mess but very rich and abundant in nutrition that feeds the flora and fauna there. Even the smallest grass can get enough resources to complete its wildly growing process. Different from the domestication environment like rice fields, the inclusive environment provided by the rain forest is the one that could gave birth to Silicon Valley. This is a grave challenge to Shanghai where usually rules and regulations dominate.