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Fast-Follower Industrial Dynamics: The Case of Taiwan's Emergent Solar Photovoltaic Industry


  • John Mathews
  • Mei-Chih Hu
  • Ching-Yan Wu


The world is on the cusp of major transformations of energy systems, with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems providing one of the most promising alternatives to fossil fuels. Amongst the countries moving to take advantage of the new production possibilities thus being opened up is Taiwan, employing in this new sector its characteristic strategies of fast followership that it has perfected in earlier industrial shifts involving semiconductors, ICT products and flat panel displays. This paper provides an interim assessment of Taiwan's early entry strategies, involving a focus on mainstream crystalline silicon solar cells, as well as entry into emerging niche sectors such as thin-film second-generation cells and concentrated solar cells utilizing novel semiconductor materials. Taiwan firms' fast-follower strategies are highlighted and assessed in light of the literature on industrial dynamics and catch-up processes generally. The paper makes a contribution to theory in building nine propositions regarding fast followership, based on prior industrial experiences and this latest episode in the solar PV industry. Taiwan's strategies as a model for China are discussed, while the paper proposes Taiwan as an alternative to the “closed” and “open” models of photovoltaic diffusion identified for Japan and the USA.

Suggested Citation

  • John Mathews & Mei-Chih Hu & Ching-Yan Wu, 2011. "Fast-Follower Industrial Dynamics: The Case of Taiwan's Emergent Solar Photovoltaic Industry," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 177-202.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:indinn:v:18:y:2011:i:2:p:177-202
    DOI: 10.1080/13662716.2011.541104

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:scient:v:98:y:2014:i:1:d:10.1007_s11192-013-1120-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Liu, Chung-Shu & Hsiao, Chih-Tung & Chang, Dong-Shang & Hsiao, Cheng-Hsing, 2016. "How the European Union’s and the United States’ anti-dumping duties affect Taiwan's PV industry: A policy simulation," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 296-305.
    3. repec:spr:scient:v:88:y:2011:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-011-0427-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:spr:scient:v:111:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-017-2376-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Lema, Adrian & Lema, Rasmus, 2016. "Low-carbon innovation and technology transfer in latecomer countries: Insights from solar PV in the clean development mechanism," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 223-236.
    6. Jochem, Patrick & Schleich, Joachim, 2012. "Exploring the drivers behind automotive exports in OECD countries: An empirical analysis," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S3/2012, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    7. 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.


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