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Yuzhuo Cai, Po Yang and Anu Lyytinen

The literature on the role of universities in regional innovation systems mainly deals with research universities, for example, with an emphasis on knowledge transfer (Anatan, 2015). This is also the case in the Chinese context (Cai, 2018). In recent years, the importance of non-research universities in regional development and innovation has been increasingly recognized (Taylor et al., 2008). Among a small volume of studies exploring the role of universities of applied science (UASs), or non research universities, in the process of regional innovation, a constant challenge has been that of applying appropriate theoretical or analytical frameworks. Currently, most studies in this field apply theoretical insights originally developed for under standing the relationship between research universities and regional innovation systems. The most commonly used frameworks are, for instance, the Triple Helix model (Etzkowitz, 2008; Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1995, 1997) for analysing the UASs and industry links (Yang et al., 2016), and the ‘five pathways to an entrepreneurial university’ (Clark, 1998) for understanding the organizational responses of UASs to the emerging demands of regional development (Lyytinen, 2011).