Technology life cycle and specialization patterns of latecomer countries. The case of the semiconductor industry

Giorgio Triulzi


Catching-up, leapfrogging and falling behind in terms of output and productivity in high-tech industries crucially depends on firms' ability to keep pace with technological change. In fast changing industries today's specialization does not guarantee tomorrow's success as changes in the technological trajectories reward and punish firms' specialization patterns. This highlights the importance of studying the relationship between technology life cycle and specialization patterns of new and incumbent innovators. From an empirical point of view life cycles have been extensively analysed at the industry and product level but not so deeply at the technology one (even though plenty of theoretical contributions exist). We define a methodology to describe the life cycle stages of the main technological paradigm within an industry and of the technological areas it is composed of. The methodology is based on the analysis of the age composition of the different areas and of the characteristics of their technological trajectories. We use the classification of the life cycle stages of the single areas to investigate specialization patterns of new and incumbent innovators. Our results show that up to the end of the 1990s firms from Taiwan, Korea and Singapore specialized mainly in areas at the later stages of their life cycles, whereas US and Japanese firms were comparatively better in younger areas. Specialization patterns changed in the beginning of the 2000s, when the Asian Tigers started to become comparatively stronger in emerging areas.

Keywords: Technology Life Cycle, Industry Life Cycle, Product Life Cycle, Specialization Patterns, Technological Paradigms, Technological Trajectories, Main Path Analysis, Catching-up, Semiconductors, Citation networks, Community Detection.

JEL classification: O20, O32, O33, O38

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