The role of technological trajectories in catching-up-based development: An application to energy efficiency technologies

Sheng Zhong & Bart Verspagen


We argue that the analysis level of a technological trajectory is very suitable to analyse the decisions of firms in latecomer countries with regard to the technological area that they should focus on. Technological trajectories are the main focal points along which technological innovation develops, and they are more detailed than the common sectors, like electronics of pharmaceuticals, that are used in the analysis of catching-up based growth. We present a collection of methods that has been proposed in the literature to identify technological trajectories. These methods use patent citation networks, and are applied to two separate fields in energy efficiency technologies. We identify the relevant technological trajectories, and analyse how the main countries active in these fields can be classified as either latecomer or incumbent countries. We then present a measure for how much patents from a particular country contribute to the main technological trajectories in the field, and to what extent they are derived from these trajectories. We use an explorative regression model to establish that latecomer countries tend to contribute to a lesser extent than incumbents to the main technological trajectories in the fields we investigate.

Keywords: technological trajectories, patent citation networks, latecomer innovation strategy

JEL Classification: O31, O33, O47