Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
The Role of Remigrants for Innovations – an Empirical Analysis for Shanghai

The Role of Remigrants for Innovations – an Empirical Analysis for Shanghai

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Rolf Sternberg
Team:  Claudia Müller (University of Cologne)
Year:  2006
Funding:  Volkswagen Foundation (Volkswagenstiftung)
Duration:  2003 - 2006
Is Finished:  yes

This project is on the role of entrepreneurial activities by return migrants for the regional innovation system within a developing country, analysed for Shanghai/China. In particular it is analysed how these entrepreneurs do spatially organise their innovation activities and how they are embedded in regional and international networks. Additionally, the role of such entrepreneurs within high-tech strategies of Chinese government is investigated. Further insights into Shanghai’s status as a high-tech location, into the efficiency of policy instruments to support high-tech start-ups, into the reverse brain drain and into the contribution of entrepreneurial activities by return migrants are expected.

PhD- dissertation is based upon qualitative interviews with remigrating entrepreneurs and with local experts in Shanghai September-December 2003 and August-October 2004.

This PhD-project is part of a bigger research project entitled "A Qualitative and Empirical Analysis of Spin-off Firms in Beijing, Hangzhou and Wuhan: A Contribution towards Explaining Innovation Processes in China", jointly organised by Profs. Sternberg, liefner and Schätzl.


  • Sternberg, R.; Müller, C. (2010): ‘New Argonauts’ in China – Return Migrants, Transnational Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth in a Regional Innovation System. In: Die Erde 141, H. 1/2, 103-125.
  • Müller, C.; Sternberg, R. (2008): China’s Return Migrants and Its Innovative Capacity. In: Rowen, H.S., Gong Hancock, M. and Miller, W.F. (Eds.): Greater China’s Quest for Innovation. Stanford: Walter H. Shorenstein Asia- Pacific Research Center Books, pp. 231-252.
  • Müller, C.; Sternberg, R. (2006): Why Entrepreneurship by Return Migrants is Crucial for Technology-based Regional Development. Theoretical Arguments and Empirical Evidence from an Emerging Region In: Johansson, I. (Ed.): Innovations and Entrepreneurship in Functional Regions (Proceedings of the 8th Uddevalla Symposium 2005). Trollhättan/Uddevalla: University of Trollättan, p. 599-629. (=Research Reports 2006:01, University of Trollhättan/Uddevalla).
  • Sternberg, R.; Müller, C. (2005): Return Migration in Regional Innovation Systems. In: Asian Journal of Technology Innovation, Vol. 13, No. 2, S. 71-96.
  • Sternberg, R. (2005): Gründungen als Hoffnungsträger der Regionalentwicklung in Deutschland. In: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Kommunalwissenschaften 44, H. 1, S. 109-129.
  • Müller, C. (2004): Gründungspolitik und Transformation: Zur Rolle von Gründungen chinesischer Remigranten für die Entwicklung von Unternehmertum in Shanghai. In: Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, Themenheft "Gründungen und Region", Jg. 49, Heft 3-4, S. 241-257.
  • Müller, C. (2004): Wenn die Meeresschildkröten zurückkehren. In: Handelsblatt, 28. Juli 2004, Nr. 144. S. 8.
  • Müller, C. (2004): Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer by Chinese Return Migrants - a Theoretical and Empirical Contribution to the Reverse Brain Drain Discussion. Department of Economic and Social Geography, University of Cologne. (=Working Papers, 2004-01).

Presentations to Scientific Audiences:

  • Sternberg, R.; Müller, C.: The 'new argonauts', their local and international linkages and their impact on regional growth - empirical evidence from transnational entrepreneurs returning to Shanghai/China. Workshop on “Interdependencies of Interactions in Local and Sectoral Innovation Systems" at Max- Planck Institute of Economics. Jena 22.-24.03.2007.
  • Sternberg, R.; Müller, C.: The Role of Chinese Return Migrants for Enhancing China’s Innovative Capacity (with Claudia Müller). Stanford Project on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE) Workshop on ”Greater China’s Innovative Capacities: Progress and Challenges” at Tsinghua-University Beijing. Peking (China), 20./21.05.2006.
  • Sternberg, R.: Entrepreneurship, Proximity and Regional Innovation Systems. Association of the American Geographers (AAG) Annual Conference. Chicago (USA), 08.03.2006.
  • Müller, C.; Sternberg, R.: Transnational Entrepreneurship and Regional Development – Theoretical Arguments and Empirical Evidence from an Emerging Region. 8th Uddevalla Symposium &  8th McGill International Entrepreneurship Conference on “Innovations and Entrepreneurship in Functional Regions”, University of Trollhättan. Uddevalla (Sweden), 15.-17.09.2005. Prämiert mit dem Best Paper Award 2005.
  • Müller, C.; Sternberg, R.: Entrepreneurship, international networks and regional innovation systems - empirical evidence from Shanghai/China. The Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference, London, August 31, 2005.
  • Sternberg, R.; Müller, C.: Entrepreneurship in Regional Innovation Systems - a Case Study of the Biotechnology Industry in Shanghai. Paper presented at DRUID Tenth Anniversary Summer Conference 2005, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark. June 27-29, 2005.
  • Müller, C.; Sternberg, R.: Regional Innovation Systems, Transnational Entrepreneurs, Hightech Development in Transformation Economies, and Local Innovation Policies - Empirical Evidence from Shanghai/China. STEPI-ASIALICS International Conference on "Innovation Policy and Management in Changing Asia". Jeju Island (Korea), 16.-19.04.2005.
  • Müller, C.: Gründungspolitik und Transformation: Zur Rolle von Gründungen chinesischer Remigranten für die Entwicklung von Unternehmertum in Shanghai. 8. Rauischholzhausener Symposium zur Wirtschaftsgeographie, 28.-30.04.2005.
  • Müller, C.: Wie entstehen High-tech Branchen in einem Entwicklungsland? Zur Rolle von Gründungen chinesischer Remigranten für die Biotechnologie in Shanghai. Arbeitskreis Industriegeographie, Eschwege. 12.-13.11.2004.