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Paths of technology upgrading in the BRICS economies

: Dominguez Lacasa, Iciar; Jindra, Björn; Radosevic, Slavo; Shubbak, Mahmood


Research policy 48 (2019), No.1, pp.262-280
ISSN: 0048-7333
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IMW ()

This paper explores technology upgrading of BRICS economies based on a three-pronged approach, which distinguishes between the intensity of technology upgrading, structural change and global interaction. We develop a statistical framework based on patent indicators to measure technological upgrading and apply it to BRICS economies in the period 19802015. The paper shows that there is no single path of technology upgrading. Instead, we find several unique paths with different trade-offs between intensity, structural change and the nature of the global interaction. All BRICS economies display increased generation of frontier technological activities, while China and Russia have also increased the intensity of behind frontier technological activities. China has also diversified its technolog y knowledge base and entered into dynamic frontier areas. With increasing intensity of frontier technology activities of the BRICS, the relative, but not absolute, the importance of foreign actors and international collaboration has declined. However, BRICS economies seem to lack the organisational and complementary capabilities to match the extent of technology sourcing from abroad, observed in high-income countries. Our result represents the application of a new conceptual framework and contributes to assessing the sustainability of innovation-based growth among BRICS. Technological development and innovation have long been a center of intensive research in economic and business studies (Fagerberg et al., 2010). There is an increasing unanimity in the literature on the role that technological development can play as the key factor for both economic growth and business competitiveness (Schumpeter, 1934; Pavitt, 1963; Freeman, 2004; Andries and Faems, 2013; Shubbak, 2018). Accordingly, growing empirical evidence highlights the vital role of accumulating domestic technological capabilities for developing economies in order to be able to absorb, adopt, and further develop advanced technologies (Mowery and Nelson, 2001; Malerba and Nelson, 2011; Shubbak, 2019). Successful catching-up processes in latecomer economies are usually accompanied by deep learning, k nowledge accumulation, and technical change procedures (Lall, 1992; Ernst and Kim, 2002).