Innovation and international technology transfer: The case of the Chinese photovoltaic industry
China is the largest solar photovoltaic cell producer in the world, with more than one third of worldwide production in 2008, exporting more than 95 percent of what it produces. The purpose of this paper is to understand the drivers of this success and its limits, with a particular emphasis on the role of technology transfers and innovation. Our analysis combines a review of international patent data at a detailed technology level with field interviews of ten Chinese PV companies. We show that Chinese producers have acquired the technologies and skills necessary to produce PV products through two main channels: the purchasing of manufacturing equipment in a competitive international market and the recruitment of skilled executives from the Chinese diaspora who built pioneer PV firms. The success of these firms in their market is, however, not reflected in their performance in terms of innovation. Rather, patent data highlight a policy-driven effort to catch up in critical technological areas.
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