Department Environmental Social Sciences

Technological Innovation System in Globalization Era: Emerging sustainability transitions in China water treatment industry


Different innovation system approaches have been used in research related to technological development in various industries, including national innovation system, regional innovation system and technological innovation system (TIS). The key distinction for the TIS framework is the ‘process’ focus instead of the ‘structural’ focus. The model has been adopted by sustainability transition studies, referring to a socio-technical system focused on the development, diffusion and use of a technology.

Incorporating the global value chain (GVC) perspective into the TIS framework provides an international dimension and divides production into stages, of which the levels of required capabilities differ. The input-output structure has been useful for innovation researchers to identify where across the chain learning opportunities are most apparent for firms in emerging economies. Beyond the limits of GVC, this research also integrates the merits of another much debated framework – the global production network (GPN) - to encompass all relevant sets of actors and networks.

The project will analyze the indicators for sustainable transitions in China water treatment industry. China is an important case as it represents the increasing role of emerging economies in this aspect. The country is building urban water management structures at a tremendous pace. Assessing in depth how such innovation develops in China can create exemplary insights on the basic conditions for sustainability transitions in a development context. The project therefore analyzes the current stage of innovation portfolios in this sector and assesses preconditions for the development of radical system alternatives (such as onsite treatment, membrane filtration, etc.) that can contribute to an enhanced sustainability record of the sector.


Prof. Dr. Bernhard Truffer Department head, Cluster Cirus Tel. +41 58 765 5670 Send Mail
Dr. Xiao Shan Yap Scientist, Cluster Cirus Tel. +41 58 765 5420 Send Mail