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

Paulo N. Figueiredo

#2013-048

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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