Economic Development as a Learning Process

Economic Development as a Learning Process

Variation Across Sectoral Systems

Edited by Franco Malerba and Richard R. Nelson

Until recently, economists studying economic development have tended to consider it a universal process, or focussed their attention on common aspects. This book originates from the growing recognition of significant sectoral differences in economic development and examines the catching-up process in five different economic sectors: pharmaceuticals, telecommunications equipment, semiconductors, software, and agro-food industries. Each of these sector studies explore the learning and catch-up processes in various developing countries, in order to identify both the common features, and those which differ significantly across sectors and nations. The authors pay particular attention to China, India, Brazil, Korea and Taiwan.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Franco Malerba and Richard R. Nelson

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, economics of innovation, evolutionary economics, innovation and technology, economics of innovation


Franco Malerba and Richard R. Nelson 1.1 INTRODUCTION This book examines the processes of technological and organizational learning in five different economic sectors: telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, software, semiconductor and agro-food, in several different developing countries: China, India, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan and others. The chapters presented here are part of a larger programme of studies – the Catch-up Program – concerned with the examination of a range of variables affecting the ability of countries behind the technological and economic frontiers to ‘catch up’ with the leaders, in particular the roles of indigenous and multinational firms, and of non-firm actors like universities and public labs, how IPR regimes affect catch-up, the government policies that are effective in supporting catch-up, and other important variables. The five sectors examined in this book represent a wide range of cases according to various classifications. They include a science-based sector: pharmaceuticals; two sectors where product design and engineering are important for competitiveness: semiconductors and telecommunications; a service sector of a specialized supplier type: software; and a traditional sector: agro-food. The evolution of these sectors has been examined in a variety of different countries, ranging from those that started their catching up quite early (such as Korea and Taiwan), to those which are now becoming major protagonists of economic development (such as China and India). These countries differ very much in terms of size of domestic market: in some of these countries (such as China, India and Brazil) the size of the domestic market has been a major target for firms,...