Humanities & Social Sciences

The measurement of critical technology in China’s high-tech manufacturing industry and the catch-up path

Recently, Professor An Tongliang, Dean of the Business School of Nanjing University and Founding Dean of the School of Digital Economy and Management, and his team published a paper titled “Measurement of Critical Technologies in China’s High-tech Manufacturing and the Catch-up Path: Lithium Battery Industry as an Example” in the first issue of Economic Research in 2023. The paper analyzes the measurement of technology in China’s high-tech manufacturing industry and the path to catch up. The two co-authors of this paper are Jiang Ge and Wang Dazhong, both young teachers from the Business School and the School of Digital Economy and Management at Nanjing University.

The following is the abstract of this paper:

China is the only country in the world that has all the industrial sectors in the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) of All Economic Activities of the United Nations and is able to control the industrial chain independently. However, facing the speeding up of the new round of digital technology revolution and the serious threat posed by the critical technologies from Western countries, for the sake of economic security, China urgently needs to further enhance its position in the global industrial chain in the innovation-driven development of high-technology manufacturing, and strive to promote its transformation into a manufacturing power with a high level of technological self-sufficiency and self-improvement.As the main driving force of China’s high-quality economic development, the high-tech manufacturing is often characterized by high R&D intensity and high patent density, but it is also the industry where China is currently multi-directionally contained by Western countries. It is imperative to have a clear judgment on the trend of its industry, the direction of technological innovation and the technological orientation of enterprises in the industry. In this regard, this paper focuses on the measurement of critical technologies in the high-tech manufacturing and the technological catch-up path of enterprises.This paper uses the PageRank algorithm to reveal the role of fundamental technologies and innovations in the process of technological development. It makes full use of the network properties of patent citation networks to prove that this method is more effective in identifying critical technologies with fundamental roles in industrial development. The adapted HITS algorithm is then used to measure the innovation impact of each enterprise in the industry at the enterprise level, visualizing the technological catch-up process of Chinese enterprises and providing a quantitative measurement basis for verification and cross-sectional comparison. Taking lithium battery technology as an example, this paper constructs a technology network based on the global patents of lithium battery technology in the past 10 years or so, and explores the technological development and the distribution of innovation influence of enterprises in the industry as a whole. Through the aforementioned algorithm, this paper derives different characteristics of the distribution of technological influence embodied in the lithium battery industry at different time periods and reveals the catch-up path of the whole industrial chain development presented by China in the lithium battery industry.This paper has the following contributions.(1) For the first time, a composite social network centrality is used as an indicator for innovation, and the innovation development of high-tech manufacturing is measured from different dimensions. This indicator not only solves the problem of accurate measurement of critical technologies, but also provides a quantitative standard for the objective evaluation of the innovation capability of enterprises. This method is both universal and accurate, and is expected to become a powerful tool for enterprises and policy makers to accurately identify the critical technologies in the high-tech manufacturing and judge the innovation influence of the industry.(2) The analysis results of the lithium battery industry by the above-mentioned measurement tool reveal that China has achieved the development mode of catching up in the whole industrial chain in the field of high-tech manufacturing by making full use of its complete industrial supporting system and industry-university-research innovation under the guidance of national industrial policy and the demand of the big market in the development of high-tech manufacturing. This development model provides a brand-new idea for China’s industrial development in the field of cutting-edge technology.The possible limitations of our paper are twofold. Firstly, there is a lack of consideration of non-patented forms of critical technologies. Secondly, the measurement method in this paper can only present the results of the catch-up model of high-tech manufacturing, but it does not provide a more in-depth explanation of the specific causes and microscopic catch-up paths of this model, which needs to be analyzed in depth in a separate paper.

Translator: He Yao

Editors: Guo Ankang, Shao Yihang

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