Identifying China’s Innovation Hotspots

China’s cities are becoming hubs for ideas and innovation, creating new products, companies and technologies. Beijing and Shanghai are among the front-runners, but Shenzhen is rapidly becoming a major global force in the technology sector.


China’s universities are making waves internationally, and 6 Mainland Chinese universities now rank within the Top 100 universities globally, according to QS. Beijing is undoubtedly the country’s higher education hub – home to the prestigious Tsinghua and Peking Universities. But other cities, notably Guangzhou, Nanjing and Wuhan, are developing strong, large-scale networks of higher education. As the lure of domestic universities grows, China’s best and brightest graduates will be key to future city success.


Yet, many cities face the challenge of ‘brain drain’, with graduates lured by the bright lights of China’s largest cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Shenzhen has emerged as one of the country’s talent hotspots, despite its limited educational offer. The city’s entrepreneurial climate and employers like Huawei and Tencent has proved difficult to resist for many ambitious Chinese. For other China12 cities, future success will depend on their ability to attract and retain the next generation of graduates.

Innovation Eco-System

Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are far and ahead China’s innovation hotspots, each with their own strengths. China’s leading start-ups, research institutions and innovation firms are all concentrated in these three cities. Indeed, Shenzhen is the world’s third largest city for international patent applications. Hangzhou may be a ‘dark horse’ with Alibaba and other private firms increasingly driving innovations and efficiencies in the fields of e-commerce, retail and logistics.

‘Next Generation’ Corporates

China’s corporate landscape is shifting, with a new breed of dynamic private firms joining the country’s state-owned enterprises. Beijing’s Zhongguancun (or Z Park) has developed as the leading technology park within the country, and the city is home to the likes of Didi Chuxing and Xiaomi. Shenzhen comes close behind, testimony to its well-established private firms (e.g. Huawei, ZTE) and wealth of new start-ups. Hangzhou also performs strongly, thanks to a legacy of entrepreneurship that has produced leading firms.

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