Despite the obvious (though as of yet unclear) relationship between economic growth and the persistence of autocratic regimes, there are only few studies that examine how innovation processes affect autocracies – and vice versa. Linking the scholarship on authoritarian consolidation with insights from the National Innovation Systems- and Science and Technology Studies literature, this article argues that processes of innovation in autocracies initiate social, economic and political processes that force a regime to constantly improve its institutional structures and enhance its channels into society. This consolidation of authoritarian rule in turn benefits further innovation. As a comparison of China and Myanmar will illustrate, this strategy can enhance a regime’s legitimacy, but is a difficult and risky process. As a result, many regimes instead choose to uphold their rule by relying on repression.