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A history-friendly model of the successive changes in industrial leadership and the catch-up by latecomers


  • Landini, Fabio
  • Lee, Keun
  • Malerba, Franco


Successive changes in industrial leadership between both firms and countries (described here as catch-up cycles) have been common in several sectors. This article develops a history-friendly model to explore the role played by technological conditions in the emergence of such leadership changes. The model is inspired by two cases where the emergence of disruptively novel technology played an important role: mobile phones and semiconductors. In the baseline setting the model is able to generate the benchmark case of three cycles with two leadership changes. In particular, the simulation analysis reveals that: (a) the more disruptive the new technology and the lower the incumbents’ capabilities, the greater the shake-up of market shares between incumbents and latecomers; (b) leadership change is more likely to occur when it coincides with certain responses by the actors to the technological disruption, such as a high lock-in behaviour on the part of incumbents; and (c) a technology-driven change of industrial leadership is more likely to occur in the presence of increasing returns to technological investments. The counterfactual experiments show that different catch-up dynamics can emerge depending on the magnitude of technological disruption, the degree of lock-ins, the shape of technological landscape, and incumbents’ initial capabilities. In particular, four other types of catch-up cycle are generated – the aborted cycle, persistent leadership, return of the old leadership, and coexistence in leadership between latecomers and incumbents. Each of these cycles is identified with a specific historical case of catch-up.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:46:y:2017:i:2:p:431-446
    DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2016.09.005

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    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.
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    14. Abramovitz, Moses, 1986. "Catching Up, Forging Ahead, and Falling Behind," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(2), pages 385-406, June.
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    16. Giachetti, Claudio & Marchi, Gianluca, 2017. "Successive changes in leadership in the worldwide mobile phone industry: The role of windows of opportunity and firms’ competitive action," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 352-364.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. repec:spr:eurasi:v:9:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s40821-019-00121-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. repec:kap:asiapa:v:35:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10490-018-9566-z is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:respol:v:48:y:2019:i:3:p:649-664 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Catch-up cycles; Leadership change; Technology; Shocks; History-friendly; Industrial dynamics; Simulations;

    JEL classification:

    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General


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