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Institutional incentives and pressures in Chinese manufacturing firms’ innovation

Yongli Tang (School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Xinyue Hu (School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Claudio Petti (Department of Engineering for Innovation, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy)
Matthias Thürer (School of Intelligent Systems Science and Engineering, Zhuhai College, Jinan University, Zhuhai, China)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 17 June 2019

Issue publication date: 17 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how Chinese firms’ innovation is related to their perceived incentives and pressures from the transitioning institutional environment.


A sample of 166 manufacturing firms located in Guangdong Province (China) is analyzed using binomial and moderated multiple regression models.


The results show that institutional incentives are more effective in promoting incremental innovations than radical ones, whereas institutional pressures are more pronounced in facilitating radical innovations than incremental ones. In addition, the interaction between the two divergent institutional forces is negatively related to innovation performance.

Practical implications

The findings inform managers and policy makers in institutional transition environments to consider and balance the effects of institutional forces. Firms should match the institutional incentives and pressures with their own innovation objectives in terms of incremental or radical goals, and take caution to deal with the divergent institutional directions, so as to avoid the negative interaction effects. Policy makers should take a systems approach when considering the incentive-based and/or command-and-control designs of innovation policies and regulations.


The study contributes to existing literature on institutions and innovation by disentangling incentive and pressure effects of institutions, regulation and innovation policies, as well as the combined and interaction effects intrinsic within institutional mixes.



This work has received funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos 71571088, 71401063); the Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology (Grant Nos 2018A070712023, 2017A070706013); and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Grant Agreement No. 734447).


Tang, Y., Hu, X., Petti, C. and Thürer, M. (2019), "Institutional incentives and pressures in Chinese manufacturing firms’ innovation", Management Decision, Vol. 58 No. 5, pp. 812-827.



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