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Impact of innovation network on regional innovation performance: do network density, network openness and network strength have any influence?

Shuliang Zhao (School of Public Affairs, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)
Jinshuang Li (School of Public Affairs, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China)

Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management

ISSN: 2053-4620

Article publication date: 3 November 2022




With the development of regional economy, innovation network plays an increasingly prominent role in reducing regional innovation cost and enabling information, knowledge and capital flow and diffusion. Building an efficient innovation network has become a feasible way to improve regional innovation capabilities and performance. Thus, under the background of Chinese special triple helix structure, the specific mechanism of innovation network characteristics on regional innovation performance is still an issue that needs to be studied urgently.


This study conducts a multi-level regression analysis regional innovation panel data of China from the past four years to explore how the three dimensions of innovation network characteristics (i.e. network density, openness and strength) affect regional innovation performance.


The results show that there is an inverted-U relationship exists between network density and regional innovation performance. The network openness and regional innovation performance show a significantly positive relationship and a U-shaped relationship exists between network strength and regional innovation performance.

Research limitations/implications

First, this study examines the relationship between network density, openness, strength and innovation ability in the network variable structure. However, this study does not analyze how absorptive capacity impacts the network structure and innovation performance of regional innovators. Second, innovation network intensity largely varies according to different types of enterprises or industries. Therefore, future studies can attempt to analyze the relationship between innovation network and innovation performance on the basis of the industry or the enterprise itself. Fourth, this study does not consider the change in the influence of innovation network structure on innovation ability.

Practical implications

The results of this study provide insights for the formulation of the regional innovation policy. First, enterprises must maintain good contact with research institutes, universities and technology intermediaries and promote resource, information and money flow between networks through formal and informal interactions. Enterprises can currently only interact with a limited number of innovative subjects due to their limited resources. Therefore, we should continue implementing the open policy of foreign capital utilization and absorb the technology, knowledge, management, ideas, talent and other resource advantages in the world. The investment environment in the central and western regions should be improved as soon as possible to guide foreign direct investments to the middle and the west part of China, thereby promoting the coordinated development of regional innovation ability and economy.

Social implications

In 2015, the Chinese Government proposed “public entrepreneurship and innovation,” including technological, institutional, management and mode innovations. This study suggests that innovation subjects in the region should establish an interactive and dynamic innovation network among innovators.


The innovation of this study lies in the analysis of the characteristics of innovation network that significantly affect regional innovation performance, the exploration of different stages of innovation network construction path and provide theoretical guidance for the construction of innovation network.



Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71701191).


Zhao, S. and Li, J. (2022), "Impact of innovation network on regional innovation performance: do network density, network openness and network strength have any influence?", Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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