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Zhan Wang

Email Address: 
zhan.wang@ul.ie
Supervisor(s): 
Prof. Helena Lenihan and Dr. Regina McNally
Working Title of Thesis: 
How does social capital inhibit innovation in China? The mediating role of social decision making constraints
Abstract: 

In knowledge-based economies, innovation is believed to be an important determining factor in the development of nations, as well as the growth and survival of business. Moreover, social capital has received much attention as a determinant of innovation in recent years. This is due to the fact that knowledge is considered as the solid foundation of innovation in the era of knowledge economy, reflecting the main driving force of competitive advantage. Hence, it is imperative to access and exploit knowledge to generate innovation. Knowledge sharing has been widely regarded by several scholars as one of the major and direct benefits of social capital. Therefore, social capital is a powerful theory to explain how to access knowledge through relationships that can influence innovation outputs.

Various conceptual and empirical studies have demonstrated that social capital is a powerful factor in terms of fostering innovation through accessing, transferring and sharing of knowledge. However, considering the dark side of social capital is important, given that both individuals and firms invest significant resources to build social capital within their network members. Indeed, social capital can give rise to appropriable resources for use, yet it is important to acknowledge the fact that such social capital can also lead to potential negative outcomes. Therefore, in addition to emphasis on the benefits of social capital, a good understanding of the dark side of social capital can facilitate a more objective evaluation of social capital.

The rationale for my study is borne out of the fact that a very limited number of studies on the social capital—innovation relationship have addressed the negative effects of social capital on innovation. My study focuses on a specific dark side of social capital, in terms of social decision making constraints, given that such constraints have significant effects on innovative performance.

In addition, the empirical studies on social capital have been extensively undertaken in the Western context, whilst how the mechanisms of social capital operate with different cultural influences in other country contexts remains largely unexplored. In light of this, China represents an interesting locale to explore the social capital—innovation relationship. Therefore, my study focuses on Chinese start-up firms, where individual social capital is seen as an important asset during early start-up period to gain the necessary resources for firms, with direct consequences for overall firm performance.

Moreover, given that culture can underline an individual’s behaviours and the effects of social capital can be moderated when there is a match between cultural values and social capital’s dimensions, it is essential not to neglect the cultural influences in social capital studies. However, few studies of social capital have considered the cultural issues to date.

Accordingly, the dearth of research relating to the negative effects of social capital on innovation has been highlighted through a review of social capital theory. The purpose of my study, therefore, is to address this gap by developing a comprehensive model, which illustrates how social capital negatively impacts on innovation with the consideration of cultural influences.

Details of any scholarships/funding received (NOT USED): 
Scholarship from China Scholarship Council. The CSC scholarship is under Chinese State Scholarship Found to pursue my study abroad as a PhD student from March, 2012 to March, 2016
Photo: 
Keywords: 
Innovation, Social capital, Culture, China
First Name: 
Zhan
Last Name: 
Wang