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Innovation and international technology transfer: The case of the Chinese photovoltaic industry

  • Arnaud De La Tour

    (CERNA - Centre d'économie industrielle - Mines ParisTech)

  • Matthieu Glachant

    (CERNA - Centre d'économie industrielle - Mines ParisTech)

  • Yann Ménière


    (CERNA - Centre d'économie industrielle - Mines ParisTech)

China is the largest solar photovoltaic cell producer in the world, with more than one third of worldwide production in 2008, exporting more than 95 percent of what it produces. The purpose of this paper is to understand the drivers of this success and its limits, with a particular emphasis on the role of technology transfers and innovation. Our analysis combines a review of international patent data at a detailed technology level with field interviews of ten Chinese PV companies. We show that Chinese producers have acquired the technologies and skills necessary to produce PV products through two main channels: the purchasing of manufacturing equipment in a competitive international market and the recruitment of skilled executives from the Chinese diaspora who built pioneer PV firms. The success of these firms in their market is, however, not reflected in their performance in terms of innovation. Rather, patent data rather highlight a policy-driven effort to catch up in critical technological areas.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number hal-00498578.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published, Energy Policy, 2011, 39, 2, 761-770
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00498578
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  1. Matthieu Glachant & Antoine Dechezleprêtre & Yann Ménière, 2010. "What Drives the International Transfer of Climate Change Mitigation Technologies? Empirical Evidence from Patent Data," Working Papers 2010.12, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Wesley M Cohen & Richard R Nelson & John P Walsh, 2003. "Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (Or Not)," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000624, David K. Levine.
  3. Keller, Wolfgang, 2002. "International Technology Diffusion," CEPR Discussion Papers 3133, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Yang, Hong & Wang, He & Yu, Huacong & Xi, Jianping & Cui, Rongqiang & Chen, Guangde, 2003. "Status of photovoltaic industry in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 703-707, June.
  5. Jacob Funk Kirkegaard & Thilo Hanemann & Lutz Weischer, 2009. "It Should Be a Breeze: Harnessing the Potential of Open Trade and Investment Flows in the Wind Energy Industry," Working Paper Series WP09-14, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  6. James R. Markusen, 1995. "The Boundaries of Multinational Enterprises and the Theory of International Trade," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 169-189, Spring.
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