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Knowledge flows in the solar photovoltaic industry: Insights from patenting by Taiwan, Korea, and China


  • Wu, Ching-Yan
  • Mathews, John A.


In this paper we extend work previously undertaken in industries such as semiconductor and flat panel displays to investigate knowledge flows from advanced countries (US, Japan and Europe) to catch-up follower countries (Taiwan, Korea and China), this time in the emergent solar photovoltaic industry. The solar photovoltaic industry is of particular interest in that it is poised between exploitation of first generation (crystalline silicon technologies) and new thin film and organic compound technologies, thus providing distinct sources of knowledge flow as measured by patent citations and linkage. For this study, we deploy a new database of 19,105 solar photovoltaic patents taken out by Taiwan, Korea and China at the USPTO over the 24 years 1984–2008, and analyse the knowledge flows revealed in these patents using a set of 12 International Patent Classification technology categories that we constructed. We demonstrate commonalities in patterns of knowledge flow between solar photovoltaic and earlier industries, but also suggestive differences, such as rising dependence of the catch-up countries on their own intra-national knowledge generation and flow, indicating their shift from imitation to innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Wu, Ching-Yan & Mathews, John A., 2012. "Knowledge flows in the solar photovoltaic industry: Insights from patenting by Taiwan, Korea, and China," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 524-540.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:41:y:2012:i:3:p:524-540 DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2011.10.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Iizuka, M., 2014. "Diverse and uneven pathways towards transition to low carbon development: The case of diffusion of solar PV technology in China," MERIT Working Papers 002, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    2. repec:spr:scient:v:98:y:2014:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-013-1158-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:scient:v:98:y:2014:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-013-1120-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Akinyele, D.O. & Rayudu, R.K. & Nair, N.K.C., 2015. "Global progress in photovoltaic technologies and the scenario of development of solar panel plant and module performance estimation − Application in Nigeria," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 112-139.
    5. Tyagi, V.V. & Rahim, Nurul A.A. & Rahim, N.A. & Selvaraj, Jeyraj A./L., 2013. "Progress in solar PV technology: Research and achievement," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 443-461.
    6. Felix Groba & Jing Cao, 2015. "Chinese Renewable Energy Technology Exports: The Role of Policy, Innovation and Markets," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 60(2), pages 243-283, February.
    7. Xia Fan & Wenjie Liu & Guilong Zhu, 2017. "Scientific linkage and technological innovation capabilities: international comparisons of patenting in the solar energy industry," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 111(1), pages 117-138, April.
    8. Xie, Zhuan & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2014. "The patterns of patents in China:," IFPRI discussion papers 1385, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Nelson, Andrew & Earle, Andrew & Howard-Grenville, Jennifer & Haack, Julie & Young, Doug, 2014. "Do innovation measures actually measure innovation? Obliteration, symbolic adoption, and other finicky challenges in tracking innovation diffusion," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(6), pages 927-940.
    10. repec:spr:scient:v:99:y:2014:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-013-1226-y is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Christoph Böhringer & Alexander Cuntz & Dietmar Harhoff & Emmanuel Asane Otoo, 2014. "The Impacts of Feed-in Tariffs on Innovation: Empirical Evidence from Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 4680, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. repec:spr:scient:v:111:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2376-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Zeting LIU, 2013. "La politique d’innovation chinoise face au défi de la transition énergétique China's innovation policy and the challenge of energy transition: the case of photovoltaic and wind turbine industries," Working Papers 271, Laboratoire de Recherche sur l'Industrie et l'Innovation. ULCO / Research Unit on Industry and Innovation.
    14. Subtil Lacerda, Juliana & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2016. "Diversity in solar photovoltaic energy: Implications for innovation and policy," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 331-340.
    15. repec:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:9:p:1580-1594 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:wsi:ijitmx:v:14:y:2017:i:01:n:s0219877017400041 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Huang, Ping & Negro, Simona O. & Hekkert, Marko P. & Bi, Kexin, 2016. "How China became a leader in solar PV: An innovation system analysis," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 777-789.
    18. Kim, Jeeeun & Lee, Sungjoo, 2015. "Patent databases for innovation studies: A comparative analysis of USPTO, EPO, JPO and KIPO," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 332-345.
    19. Mare Sarr & Joëlle Noailly, 2017. "Innovation, Diffusion, Growth and the Environment: Taking Stock and Charting New Directions," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 66(3), pages 393-407, March.
    20. Kaldellis, John K. & Kapsali, Marina & Kavadias, Kosmas A., 2014. "Temperature and wind speed impact on the efficiency of PV installations. Experience obtained from outdoor measurements in Greece," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 612-624.


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