Russia and China both are endeavoring to transform Soviet-style R&D systems characterized by separate education, research and business spheres into something more suited to a knowledge economy supporting innovation. The Triple Helix model is an attractive configuration, derived from the practices of the most successful innovation systems, and suggesting that the three key actors—universities, business, and the state—might in some instances substitute for each other. A model placing the state at the center appeals to non-democratic regimes and countries endeavoring to catch up with OECD nations.
We compare the Chinese and Russian efforts to implement a Triple Helix program by examining institutional change, epistemic communities, funding, and the role of the state, with nanotechnology as a case study. While both nations have introduced major programs and allocated significant funding, we find that China has been vastly more successful than Russia in promoting collaboration among universities, business, and government to advance research and innovation. We attribute the difference to the quality of state policies that provide incentives for agents and epistemic communities to alter their behavior, an outcome facilitated by conditions at the beginning of reforms, which made the Chinese far more open to learning.