To read this content please select one of the options below:

Recent developments in China’s biopharmaceutical industry (2012-2017): Patterns of product innovation and firm scope

Marcus Conlé (Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany and Institute of Asian Studies, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany)

Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management

ISSN: 2053-4620

Article publication date: 19 June 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019




The paper aims to take stock of China’s recent biopharmaceutical industry development by analyzing product innovation and changes in the firms’ product portfolios during the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.


The paper introduces a classification of biopharmaceutical products. By applying the classification to the product data of China’s drug regulator, the CFDA, it becomes possible to trace the developments within the sector by looking at changes in the number of firms within each subgroup and changes in the number of subgroups in which each firm is involved. The classification allows an evaluation of the latest product innovation achievements.


The paper demonstrates a mild shakeout of firms in the relatively long-existing domestic market segments, a trend toward more specialized product portfolios and an enduring prevalence of innovation strategies aimed at exploiting relatively unpopulated domestic market niches instead of pioneering entirely new products. Especially the capability of upgrading to second-generation protein therapeutics has become a key criterion for separating the wheat and the chaff in China’s domestic sector. The paper moreover points out the relevance of acquisitions as a corporate growth strategy.

Research limitations/implications

The research does not consider complementary indicators, product pipelines in particular. Future research should compare patterns across emerging economies.


The paper is unique in using the CFDA database for systematic academic research on (bio)pharmaceutical innovation and in introducing a biopharmaceutical product classification to trace innovative activities and changes in corporate product portfolios over time.



Conlé, M. (2019), "Recent developments in China’s biopharmaceutical industry (2012-2017): Patterns of product innovation and firm scope", Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 686-707.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles