EU–China innovation relations

It is in the long-term interests of both the EU and China to encourage innovation collaboration. Transnational innovation networks or ecosystems can boost innovation outcomes for both sides. European and Chinese leaders should encourage an open mindset among policymakers, businesses, researchers and the public at large. This requires moving beyond thinking about innovation as a national or regional project and seeing it as a way to enrich the engagement of European and Chinese researchers and enterprises in global networks. Targets, such as those for local content, which encourage nationalist or protectionist mindsets should be avoided. The EU and China are already cooperating in science, technology and innovation and there is much potential to cooperate further in basic research; food and agriculture; manufacturing and industrial technology, such as high-speed railways and aircraft; sustainable urbanization, such as water and health; and climate change mitigation measures, such as renewable energy and green finance.

To boost innovation cooperation further, the governments of EU member states and China should facilitate the movement of researchers, through flexible and easy-to-navigate visa regimes, student exchanges, and by encouraging researchers to collaborate and to gain global experience. They should also facilitate the cross-border registration of patents by their nationals, so that the EU and China can become effectively the world’s largest single market for innovation. Growing industrial competition complicates potential close innovation relations. The encouragement of innovation networks needs to be balanced by risk management measures to maintain incentives for individual firms and institutions to invest in innovation, and by the further development and strengthening of intellectual property rights protection. Evaluating relative innovation capacity has become more complex with the rise of China, and shifts to a more diffuse and multipolar world. But developed economies are still at the forefront in innovation, and Europeans should have confidence in the strengths that mature research institutions and supportive regulatory frameworks can bring to global innovation. Innovative Chinese companies will also create new opportunities for Europe.

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