Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (10): 1910-1922.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201810007

• Urban Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Innovation-based urbanization: Evidence from 270 cities at the prefecture level or above in China

LYU Lachang1,2,3(),SUN Feixiang2,3,HUANG Ru2,3   

  1. 1. College of Management, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
    2. College of Resource Environment and Tourism, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China
    3. Beijing Urban innovation and Development Research Center, Beijing 100048, China
  • Received:2017-08-28 Online:2018-10-25 Published:2018-10-25
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41471136


With the rapid development of knowledge economy, great changes have been taking place in urbanization pattern across the world in the current conjuncture. Considering the fact that traditional urbanization theory is hard to interpret these changes, innovation is the core concept to explain the phenomenon of the new urbanization dynamics. As one of important contents of urban geography, in the perspective of space of flows, urbanization dynamics needs to turn from research on the population flow between rural and urban research to studies on high skilled migrants flow among cities and regions. Against this background, we propose a conception of innovation-based urbanization, and use it to describe the effect of high skilled migrants and cultural diversity on urban innovation in China. Based on the sixth census data of 270 cities in China in 2010, our study calculates the index of cultural diversity of each city, and analyses the spatial structure of high skilled migrants and cultural diversity in China. Then this study measures the extent to which high skilled migrants and cultural diversity increase urban innovation, with a method of spatial regression analysis. Conceptual and empirical contributions are also compared to previous studies. The results are obtained as follows: (1) The migration of highly skilled to cities, which changes urban function and landscape and extends the knowledge activities and behaviors, is emphasized by innovation-based urbanization conception, which responds to the development of knowledge-based economy, providing a good explanation of new dynamics, new mechanism of urban development and new urban innovation landscape. (2) Innovation-based urbanization is the important driving force for Chinese urban development, especially for eastern coastal areas and provincial capital cities. (3) Highly skilled migrants and cultural diversity do have demonstrated positive effect on urban innovation output. A ten percent increase in the number of urban highly skilled migrants and the index of cultural diversity direct increase respectively urban patents by 3% and 2%. The conclusions could deepen the understanding of openness and dynamics of regional innovation system and help to improve decision-making ability on urbanization planning, promoting urban innovation and development.

Key words: innovation-based urbanization, innovation, urbanization, highly skilled, migrants, cultural diversity, China