Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation | McKinsey & Company

The events of 2015 have shown that China is passing through a challenging transition: the labor-force expansion and surging investment that propelled three decades of growth are now weakening.

Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation

This is a natural stage in the country’s economic development. Yet it raises questions such as how drastically the expansion of GDP will slow down and whether the country can tap new sources of growth.

New research1 by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) suggests that to realize consensus growth forecasts—5.5 to 6.5 percent a year—during the coming decade, China must generate two to three percentage points of annual GDP growth through innovation, broadly defined. If it does, innovation could contribute much of the $3 trillion to $5 trillion a year to GDP by 2025.2 China will have evolved from an “innovation sponge,” absorbing and adapting existing technology and knowledge from around the world, into a global innovation leader. Our analysis suggests that this transformation is possible, though far from inevitable.

To date, when we have evaluated how well Chinese companies commercialize new ideas and use them to raise market share and profits and to compete around the world, the picture has been decidedly mixed. China has become a strong innovator in areas such as consumer electronics and construction equipment. Yet in others—creating new drugs or designing automobile engines, for example—the country still isn’t globally competitive. That’s true even though every year it spends more than $200 billion on research (second only to the United States), turns out close to 30,000 PhDs in science and engineering, and leads the world in patent applications (more than 820,000 in 2013). Video   McKinsey director Kevin Sneader discusses global innovation trends at a recent World Economic Forum event.

When we look ahead, though, we see broad swaths of opportunity. Our analysis suggests that by 2025, such new innovation opportunities could contribute $1.0 trillion to $2.2 trillion a year to the Chinese economy—or equivalent to up to 24 percent of total GDP growth. To achieve this goal, China must continue to transform the manufacturing sector, particularly through digitization, and the service sector, through rising connectivity and Internet enablement. Additional productivity gains would come from progress in science- and engineering-based innovation and improvements in the operations of companies as they adopt modern business methods.

To develop a clearer view of this potential, we identified four innovation archetypes: customer focused, efficiency driven, engineering based, and science based. We then compared the actual global revenues of individual industries with what we would expect them to generate given China’s share of global GDP (12 percent in 2013). As the exhibit shows, Chinese companies that rely on customer-focused and efficiency-driven innovation—in industries such as household appliances, Internet software and services, solar panels, and construction machinery—perform relatively well. Exhibit Enlarge However, Chinese companies are not yet global leaders in any of the science-based industries (such as branded pharmaceuticals) that we analyzed. In engineering-based industries, the results are inconsistent: China excels in high-speed trains but gets less than its GDP-based share from auto manufacturing. In this article, we’ll describe the state of play and the outlook in these four categories, starting with the two outperformers.

Source: Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation | McKinsey & Company

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