SCPKU faculty fellow focuses on Chinese innovation


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Charles Eesley, Stanford Assistant Professor of Management Science and Engineering and SCPKU Faculty Fellow, shared his views on linkages between Chinese science parks and innovation during a public talk in October 2013.

The Chinese government developed over 100 high-tech industrial development zones and over 80 university science parks since the mid-1980s, aimed to support fundraising and growth for innovation. How do they contribute to innovation in China? Are places like Zhongguangcun helping Chinese firms like the Silicon Valley? On October 30, 2013 during an SCPKU public talk, Charles Eesley, Stanford Assistant Professor of Management Science and Engineering and SCPKU Faculty Fellow, shared his research on science parks as innovation policy in China and the channels through which ventures acquire financial and political support in China.

The establishment of science parks began when researchers located in Zhongguancun began to come out of their labs and start entities for commercializing research achievements in the 1970s. Since the late 1980s, the Chinese government has put in place a set of national and provisional regulations to establish science parks as key public infrastructure to receive public resources promoting high-tech entrepreneurship.

By 2004, with nearly 7000 industrial parks in China, the government stepped up its efforts to tighten regulations and clean up unqualified industrial parks. By the end of 2006, the number of industrial parks had dwindled from over 6800 to less than 1600.

Established in 2004, Tsinghua University Science Park, or "Tuspark," is both one of the most renowned science parks in China as well as a company which builds other business parks. Tuspark is comprised of400 companies and 25,000 employees with 30 branches around China.

Using data gathered from Tuspark, Professor Eesley has spent the past 8 years trying to identify links between science parks, entrepreneurship, and innovation. His research has shown that science parks have mixed or relatively small effects on innovation. "Science parks may provide services, connections, and an institutional setting for legitimation and brokering that is not common outside these parks. Such effects of science parks are stronger in emerging economies or nascent markets," says Eesley.

While there may be no direct effects of science parks on innovation or venture growth, there are indirect effects that help attract public funding, particularly for businesses lacking personal government ties. Entrepreneurs can also expect to benefit from connections ("guanxi") and legitimacy.

Eesley is the recipient of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) 2012 Research Fund for International Young Sciences, and the 2010 Best Dissertation Award in the Business Policy and Strategy Division of the Academy of Management. He has a doctorate from the MIT Sloan School of Management and is a former entrepreneur in medical equipment innovation. His research focuses on how formal and informal institutions, and industry environment influence entrepreneurship.