The dynamics of national innovation systems (NISs) are a source of considerable academic and policy interest, especially when to address new competitive challenges they involve changing institutions and relationships within successful systems. This paper examines the case of Taiwan which is embarking on a new phase in its approach to building its national innovative capacity through creating the infrastructure for a biotechnology industry. By examining the process and mechanisms by which new biotechnology innovation networks are being created, and contrasting their development with existing networks, we analyse the dynamics of Taiwan's NIS. The paper reviews the prospects for this new phase in Taiwan's transition from ‘imitation’ to ‘innovation’. The paper aims to add to the understanding of how innovation systems evolve. It is concerned with the contributors, processes and challenges of NIS evolution and the form and meaning of its dynamic changes.