IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Catch-up cycles and changes in industrial leadership:Windows of opportunity and responses of firms and countries in the evolution of sectoral systems


  • Lee, Keun
  • Malerba, Franco


This study proposes a framework that aims to explain why successive changes in industry leadership (called also the catch-up cycle) occur over time in a sector. In catch-up cycles, latecomer firms and countries emerge as international leaders, whereas incumbents lose their previous positions. New leaders are then dethroned by newcomers. To identify factors at the base of catch-up cycles, this article adopts a sectoral system framework and identifies windows of opportunity that may emerge during the long-run evolution of an industry. This study proposes three windows related to the specific dimensions of a sectoral system. One dimension is related to changes in knowledge and technology. The second dimension pertains to changes in demand, and the third includes changes in institutions and public policy. The combination of the opening of a window (technological, demand, or institutional/policy) and the responses of firms and other components of the sectoral system of the latecomer and incumbent countries determines changes in industrial leadership and catch-up. Sectors differ according to the type of windows that may open and the responses of firms and other components of systems. Empirical evidence of catch-up cycles is presented from six sectors, namely mobile phones, cameras, semiconductors, steel, mid-sized jets, and wines.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Keun & Malerba, Franco, 2017. "Catch-up cycles and changes in industrial leadership:Windows of opportunity and responses of firms and countries in the evolution of sectoral systems," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 338-351.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:2:p:338-351
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2016.09.006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Morrison, Andrea & Rabellotti, Roberta, 2017. "Gradual catch up and enduring leadership in the global wine industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 417-430.
    2. Malerba, Franco, 2002. "Sectoral systems of innovation and production," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 247-264, February.
    3. Kang, Hyo & Song, Jaeyong, 2017. "Innovation and recurring shifts in industrial leadership: Three phases of change and persistence in the camera industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 376-387.
    4. Lee, Keun & Lim, Chaisung, 2001. "Technological regimes, catching-up and leapfrogging: findings from the Korean industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 459-483, March.
    5. Keun Lee & Tae Young Park & Rishikesha T. Krishnan, 2014. "Catching-up or Leapfrogging in the Indian IT Service Sector: Windows of Opportunity, Path-creating, and Moving up the Value Chain," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 32(4), pages 495-518, July.
    6. Fagerberg, Jan & Srholec, Martin & Knell, Mark, 2007. "The Competitiveness of Nations: Why Some Countries Prosper While Others Fall Behind," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 1595-1620, October.
    7. Samira Guennif & Shyama Ramani, 2012. "Explaining divergence in catching-up in pharmaceuticals between India and Brazil using the National System Innovation framework," Post-Print hal-01345868, HAL.
    8. Sunil Mani, 2005. "The Dragon vs the Elephant: Comparative analysis of innovation capability in the telecommunications equipment industry in China and India," Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum Working Papers 373, Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum, India.
    9. Keun Lee & Sunil Mani & Qing Mu, 2012. "Explaining Divergent Stories of Catch-up in the Telecommunication Equipment Industry in Brazil, China, India and Korea," Chapters,in: Economic Development as a Learning Process, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Mu, Qing & Lee, Keun, 2005. "Knowledge diffusion, market segmentation and technological catch-up: The case of the telecommunication industry in China," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(6), pages 759-783, August.
    11. Landini, Fabio & Lee, Keun & Malerba, Franco, 2017. "A history-friendly model of the successive changes in industrial leadership and the catch-up by latecomers," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 431-446.
    12. Lee, Keun & Ki, Jee-hoon, 2017. "Rise of latecomers and catch-up cycles in the world steel industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 365-375.
    13. Claudio Giachetti & Gianluca Marchi, 2010. "Evolution of firms' product strategy over the life cycle of technology-based industries: A case study of the global mobile phone industry, 1980-2009," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 52(7), pages 1123-1150.
    14. Fagerberg, Jan, 1988. "International Competitiveness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(391), pages 355-374, June.
    15. Yoon-Zi Kim & Keun Lee, 2008. "Sectoral Innovation System and a Technological Catch-up: The Case of the Capital Goods Industry in Korea," Global Economic Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(2), pages 135-155.
    16. Lall, Sanjaya, 2001. "Competitiveness Indices and Developing Countries: An Economic Evaluation of the Global Competitiveness Report," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(9), pages 1501-1525, September.
    17. Shin, Jang-Sup, 2017. "Dynamic catch-up strategy, capability expansion and changing windows of opportunity in the memory industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 404-416.
    18. Shulin Gu & Bengt-Åke Lundvall & Ju Liu & Franco Malerba & Sylvia Schwaag Serger, 2009. "China's System and Vision of Innovation: An Analysis in Relation to the Strategic Adjustment and the Medium- to Long-Term S&T Development Plan (2006-20)," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4-5), pages 369-388.
    19. Fagerberg, Jan, 1988. "International Competitiveness: Errata," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(393), pages 1203-1203, December.
    20. Jan Fagerberg & Martin Srholec & Bart Verspagen, 2010. "The Role of Innovation in Development," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 1(2).
    21. Franco Malerba & Richard Nelson, 2011. "Learning and catching up in different sectoral systems: evidence from six industries," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(6), pages 1645-1675, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dolata, Ulrich, 2017. "Technological innovations and the transformation of economic sectors: A concise overview of issues and concepts," Research Contributions to Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies, SOI Discussion Papers 2018-01, University of Stuttgart, Institute for Social Sciences, Department of Organizational Sociology and Innovation Studies.
    2. Najda-Janoszka, Marta, 2017. "Tracking Windows of Opportunity along the Industry Development Trajectory," MPRA Paper 83438, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. repec:eee:proeco:v:192:y:2017:i:c:p:1-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kang, Hyo & Song, Jaeyong, 2017. "Innovation and recurring shifts in industrial leadership: Three phases of change and persistence in the camera industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 376-387.
    5. Vértesy, Dániel, 2017. "Preconditions, windows of opportunity and innovation strategies: Successive leadership changes in the regional jet industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 388-403.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:2:p:338-351. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.