Beyond technological catch-up: An empirical investigation of further innovative capability accumulation outcomes in latecomer firms with evidence from Brazil

Paulo N. Figueiredo


This article examines outcomes that are achieved by latecomer firms from the accumulation of innovative capabilities. Drawing on fieldwork evidence from pulp and paper firms in Brazil (1950-2010), it was found that: (1) the firms accumulated innovative capabilities that turned them into world leaders in the segment of the global pulp and paper industry based on eucalyptus forestry; (2) besides this technological catch-up, the accumulation of these innovative capabilities resulted in outcomes that generated benefits within these firms such as (i) implemented inventive and innovative activities; (ii) consistent improvement of several parameters of operational and environment-related performance; (iii) varied patterns of corporate growth; (3) these outcomes were achieved not only by research-based and patent-related capabilities but mainly by a mix of innovative capability levels, with differing degrees of novelty and complexity for diverse technological functions. Therefore, the accumulation of a wide range of types and levels of innovative capabilities does pay off for the innovative firms, their industries and, ultimately, their economies. By combining a novel approach to examining firm capabilities with findings from an inductive fieldwork, this article provides new empirical and methodological insights for the long-standing debate on innovative capabilities as the fundamental source of firm competitive performance. The article draws managers' attention to the importance of a multiplicity of types and levels of capabilities to achieve relevant outcomes, and policy makers in developing economies to adopt a comprehensive view on innovative activities and place firm-centred innovation capability accumulation at the centre of industrial innovation policies.

Keywords: innovative capability accumulation; latecomer firms; catch-up; competitive performance; Brazil.

JEL Classification: M16, O32, Q16, Q18

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