Student thesis: Phd


This research investigates the role Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in supporting Chinese rural development. Drawing on technological capability theory, this thesis offers an in-depth case study of the transformation from closed to open innovation systems among rural enterprises in China. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with twenty-four rural enterprises, supplemented by field observations and a review of documents. Using case studies of garment, shoe and zip enterprises in Jinjiang, Fujian Province, this thesis analyses the processes and pathways of transformation that rural enterprises have gone through as they transition from traditional closed to open innovation enterprises. This study makes three main findings. Firstly, that in the course of industrial development, the building of technological capabilities of firms facilitated by ICTs is critical for the innovation transformation of rural enterprises. Secondly, that the adoption of ICTs in rural enterprises enabled them to search wider and deeper in obtaining, integrating and commercialising processes. Thirdly, the ICT-enabled interaction between rural enterprises and external actors is dynamic and context-dependent across different stages, and the network of these external actors has driven rural enterprises to rely on information and communication technologies to evolve toward an open innovation paradigm. This study analyses the mechanism of ICTs-facilitated transformation in rural enterprises from closed to open innovation, in response to forces of economic globalisation. It argues that, for traditional rural industries to survive and thrive in the context of economic globalisation, they need to engage in open innovation, by means of acquisition of external innovative sources through building absorptive capacity with ICTs. The experience of China’s rural enterprises demonstrates how firms take advantage of ICTs to enhance rural development. This thesis makes contributions both theoretically and practically. Theoretically, it extends the understanding of the use of ICTs for open innovation. It unravels the process of transformation in rural enterprises from closed to open innovation with the facilitation of ICTs. Practically, the insights generated in this thesis opens up new paths for rural enterprises, showing a way to employ ICTs to accelerate transformation towards open innovation. The less competitive rural entrepreneurs and their enterprises may benefit from these findings.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAdmos Chimhowu (Supervisor) & Ping Gao (Supervisor)

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