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Low carbon innovation in China: prospects, politics and practice

Overview | Team | Contact | Publications | Video | Media | Slides | Photos


Low Carbon Innovation in China logoThis project, led from Lancaster University, is an international collaboration between researchers in the UK and at leading institutions in China to investigate different models of innovation and their role in low carbon transitions.

Running from late 2013 to 2017, the project has compared government-led, high-tech ‘indigenous innovation’ approaches with emergent, lower-tech approaches in the areas of agriculture, energy and mobility, as briefly explained in the short videos below.

The project’s aim has been to explore the extent, nature and social implications of low-carbon transitions in China, a key concern for the whole world. There is a burgeoning literature on low-carbon innovation in China, including from thinktanks, global governance institutions and INGOs. But these reports tend to downplay the social nature of technical change, and thus questions of political change and power. They also thus restate conventional policy recommendations that remain ignored or are proving impossible to implement. Low carbon transition fails to emerge even as socioeconomic change continues at spectacular pace.

Research for this project aims to fill this gap in knowledge by offering in-depth academic analysis of several key areas of low-carbon innovation that acknowledges these key issues. It seeks to inform policymakers and stakeholders on opportunities for prospective low-carbon transitions, and optimising their global impact, as well as advancing knowledge of contemporary low-carbon innovation in China beyond.

There will be a clear project focus on impact, communications and engagement, strengthened through collaboration with the STEPS Centre ICE Unit, the Work Foundation and The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Project team:

Low Carbon Innovation in ChinaWe are very sad to share the news that Prof John Urry, Principal Investigator on the project, died on 18 March 2016. An announcement and tribute can be found on the Lancaster University website.

  • Principal Investigator: Prof. John Urry, Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe), Lancaster University, UK
  • Co-Investigator and Lead Co-ordinator: Dr. David Tyfield, CeMoRe, Lancaster University, UK
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Frauke Urban, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), UK
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Adrian Ely, STEPS Centre and SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research (University of Sussex), UK
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Yu WANG, Tsinghua University, China
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Ping Li, Tsinghua University, China
  • Co-Investigator: Dr. Yiching Song, Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, China
  • Research Fellow: Sam Geall, and SPRU – Science and Technology Policy Research (University of Sussex), UK
  • Research Associate: Dr.Dennis Zuev, Researcher at the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, CIES-ISCTE, Lisbon, Portugal and CeMoRe, Lancaster University, UK
  • Media partner:

Find out more:





Working Papers – China Low Carbon Reports

Journal articles


Press releases:

Blog posts:

Video :

Project overview

Professor John Urry, Lancaster University, gives a short overview of the project (2.11)






Dr David Tyfield, Lancaster University, gives a short overview of the mobility case study (3.12)






Dr Frauke Urban, SOAS, gives a short overview of the energy case study (2.25)







Dr Adrian Ely, SPRU, gives a short overview of the agriculture case study (1.42)



















View photos from our project on our Flickr channel.