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Learning, capability accumulation and firms differences: evidence from latecomer steel


  • Paulo N. Figueiredo


This paper is concerned with the application of frameworks in order to explain how key features of the intra-firm learning processes influence inter-firm differences in technological capability accumulation in the late-industrializing or latecomer context. This relationship is examined in two of the largest steel firms in Brazil over their lifetimes of 40 and 60 years. These issues have been addressed, individually or together, in different studies of 'technological capability' and 'learning' in industrialized and latecomer firms. However, there is a scarcity of analytical frameworks and supporting empirical evidence to explore the practical implications of the underlying learning processes for inter-firm differences in technological capability-accumulation paths, particularly within the latecomer context. The framework for capability accumulation identifies different types and levels of technological capabilities. The framework for learning identifies four processes: external and internal knowledge acquisition, knowledge socialization, and knowledge codification. These are examined on the basis of key features: variety, intensity and functioning. Drawing on in-depth comparative case study methodology, the study has found that: (i) the technological capability accumulation paths followed by the two firms diverged and have proceeded at differing rates over time, and (ii) key features of the intra-firm learning processes have played a substantial part in influencing these differences. The paper suggests that, at least within large latecomer steel firms, purposeful, continuous and effective efforts to improve on key features of the underlying learning processes are likely to generate positive implications for the manner and rate of technological capability accumulation. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Paulo N. Figueiredo, 2003. "Learning, capability accumulation and firms differences: evidence from latecomer steel," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press and the Associazione ICC, vol. 12(3), pages 607-643, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:12:y:2003:i:3:p:607-643

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    3. Dutrénit, Gabriela & Natera, José Miguel & Puchet Anyul, Martín & Vera-Cruz, Alexandre O., 2019. "Development profiles and accumulation of technological capabilities in Latin America," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 396-412.
    4. Marin, Anabel & Sasidharan, Subash, 2010. "Heterogeneous MNC subsidiaries and technological spillovers: Explaining positive and negative effects in India," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1227-1241, November.
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    6. Yexin Liu & Weiwei Wu & Yanggi Kim, 2023. "How do latecomer firms achieve catch-up through technology management: a comparative analysis," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 1-12, December.
    7. Saha Dhevan Meyanathan, 2011. "Industrial Upgrading: Cluster Development in the Malaysian Electronics Industry," Chapters, in: Akifumi Kuchiki & Masatsugu Tsuji (ed.), Industrial Clusters, Upgrading and Innovation in East Asia, chapter 7, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Hansen, Ulrich Elmer & Lema, Rasmus, 2019. "The co-evolution of learning mechanisms and technological capabilities: Lessons from energy technologies in emerging economies," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 140(C), pages 241-257.
    9. Chia-Wen Hsu & Homin Chen, 2009. "Foreign Direct Investment and Capability Development," Management International Review, Springer, vol. 49(5), pages 585-605, October.
    10. Guo, Jingjing & Guo, Bin & Zhou, Jianghua & Wu, Xiaobo, 2020. "How does the ambidexterity of technological learning routine affect firm innovation performance within industrial clusters? The moderating effects of knowledge attributes," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 155(C).
    11. Arasti, Mohammadreza & Khaleghi, Mahdi & Noori, Javad, 2017. "Corporate-level technology strategy and its linkage with corporate strategy in multi-business companies: IKCO case study," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 243-252.
    12. Wadho, Waqar & Goedhuys, Micheline & Chaudhry, Azam, 2019. "Young innovative companies and employment creation, evidence from the Pakistani textiles sector," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 139-152.
    13. Dantas, Eva & Bell, Martin, 2011. "The Co-Evolution of Firm-Centered Knowledge Networks and Capabilities in Late Industrializing Countries: The Case of Petrobras in the Offshore Oil Innovation System in Brazil," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1570-1591, September.
    14. Figueiredo, Paulo N. & Cohen, Marcela, 2019. "Explaining early entry into path-creation technological catch-up in the forestry and pulp industry: Evidence from Brazil," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(7), pages 1694-1713.
    15. Pranpreya Sriwannawit & Ulf Sandström, 2015. "Large-scale bibliometric review of diffusion research," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 102(2), pages 1615-1645, February.
    16. Diego Queiroz Machado & Fátima Regina Ney Matos & Rafael Fernandes Mesquita, 2022. "Relations between innovation management and organisational sustainability: a case study in a Brazilian higher education institution," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 24(9), pages 11127-11152, September.
    17. Lema, Rasmus, 2010. "Adoption of Open Business Models in the West and Innovation in India's Software Industry," MPRA Paper 49589, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Egbetokun, Abiodun A., 2015. "Interactive learning and firm-level capabilities in latecomer settings: The Nigerian manufacturing industry," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 231-241.
    19. Paulo Figueiredo & Klauber Brito, 2011. "The innovation performance of MNE subsidiaries and local embeddedness: evidence from an emerging economy," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 141-165, February.
    20. Peerally, Jahan Ara & Santiago, Fernando & De Fuentes, Claudia & Moghavvemi, Sedigheh, 2022. "Towards a firm-level technological capability framework to endorse and actualize the Fourth Industrial Revolution in developing countries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(10).

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