The industrial dynamics of water innovation: A comparison between China and Europe

Mariú Abritta Moro*, Ursula S. McKnight, Barth F. Smets, Yang Min, Maj Munch Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

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The expansion of the green economy agenda has increased the attention on eco-innovations globally, with issues related to water stress identified as one of the major bottlenecks for sustainable economic growth. Using evolutionary economic theory, this study investigates the industrial dynamics of the water sector, comparing China and Europe using patent data. This comparison feeds into the “catching up” literature, addressing the challenges of the “green economy” agenda in different regions in various stages of development. We highlight the neglected micro-dynamics of water innovation, investigating the roles of different innovators in the development of water technological trajectories, with a special focus on water innovations closely related to climate change adaptation and mitigation technologies. Public water innovators (universities) were found to be more important in China than in Europe. Similarities were also identified between Europe and China; big companies were found to be the main innovative leaders with no substantial changes documented over the timeframe investigated. Overall, the finding implies a rapid Chinese technological catching up of water technologies in the last three decades, where our research has pointed towards the role of redirection of Chinese policies with a stronger focus on sustainable development. The analysis, overall, sheds light on the state and nature of the globalizing green growth agenda.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Innovation Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)14-32
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Water innovation
  • Eco-innovation
  • Evolutionary economics
  • Knowledge institutions
  • Business demography

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