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Comparing the International Knowledge Flow of China’s Wind and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Industries: Patent Analysis and Implications for Sustainable Development

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School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
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School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, London WC1H 0PD, UK
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1883; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061883
Received: 9 May 2018 / Revised: 28 May 2018 / Accepted: 29 May 2018 / Published: 5 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Climate Change and Sustainable Development Policy)
Climate-relevant technologies, like wind and solar energy, are crucial for mitigating climate change and for achieving sustainable development. Recent literature argues that Chinese solar firms play more active roles in international knowledge flows, which may better explain their success in international markets when compared to those of Chinese wind firms; however, empirical evidence remains sparse. This study aims to explore to what extent and how do the international knowledge flows differ between China’s wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) industries? From a network perspective, this paper develops a three-dimensional framework to compare the knowledge flows in both explicit and tacit dimensions: (i) inter-country explicit knowledge clusters (by topological clustering of patent citation network); (ii) inter-firm explicit knowledge flow (patent citation network of key firms); and, (iii) inter-firm tacit knowledge flow (by desktop research and interviews). The results show that China’s PV industry has stronger international knowledge linkages in terms of knowledge clustering and explicit knowledge flow, but the wind power industry has a stronger tacit knowledge flow. Further, this study argues that the differences of global knowledge links between China’s wind and solar PV industries may be caused by technology characteristics, market orientation, and policy implementation. This suggests that these industries both have strong connections to global knowledge networks, but they may involve disparate catch-up pathways that concern follower-modes and leader-modes. These findings are important to help us understand how China can follow sustainable development pathways in the light of climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: wind power; solar PV; international knowledge flow; patent citation network; sustainable development wind power; solar PV; international knowledge flow; patent citation network; sustainable development
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MDPI and ACS Style

Zhou, Y.; Pan, M.; Urban, F. Comparing the International Knowledge Flow of China’s Wind and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Industries: Patent Analysis and Implications for Sustainable Development. Sustainability 2018, 10, 1883. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061883

AMA Style

Zhou Y, Pan M, Urban F. Comparing the International Knowledge Flow of China’s Wind and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Industries: Patent Analysis and Implications for Sustainable Development. Sustainability. 2018; 10(6):1883. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061883

Chicago/Turabian Style

Zhou, Yuan, Meijuan Pan, and Frauke Urban. 2018. "Comparing the International Knowledge Flow of China’s Wind and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Industries: Patent Analysis and Implications for Sustainable Development" Sustainability 10, no. 6: 1883. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061883

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