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Catch-up and leapfrogging strategies based on complementary technologies: an empirical study from 2010 to 2020

Abstract:The fourth industrial revolution with artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and other digital technologies as elements has arrived, and the global economy has accelerated its transformation to a digital economy. Based on the background of digital economy, from the theoretical perspective of opportunity window, this paper expounds the system opportunity window, technology opportunity window and market opportunity window that China faces as a latecomer country in the digital economy era, and summarizes the opportunities and challenges that China faces in the process of catching up. Finally, from the window of opportunity and macro environment, the paper puts forward the relevant countermeasures of China in the process of catching up.


Key words:the fourth industrial revolution; digital economy; window of opportunity; complementary technology; catch-up and leapfrogging


Abstract: How to catch up with developed countries quickly is a challenge for all later countries. The fourth industrial revolution with artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and other digital technologies as elements has arrived, and the global economy is accelerating the transition to a digital economy. In the era of the digital economy,where the core technology of the Chinese and American industries is interdependent and the Chinese industry is at the lower end, we need some new development strategies to achieve catch-up and leapfrogging, which is based on complementary technologies. Based on the background of the digital economy and from the theoretical perspective of windows of opportunity, the article expounds that China faces opportunities and challenges as a later country in the era of the digital economy in the process of catching up.By reviewing the existing ecosystem literature, partners with complementary technologies can bring disruptive innovations, thereby weakening or even replacing incumbents. This is because the complementors initially helped the incumbents, but with the development of technology and self-improvement, the complements gradually became a threat,weakening the status of the incumbents and even replacing them. Due to the features of complementor(concealment of the complementary party, close cooperation with the incumbent, and overall competitive advantage), there are three different catch-up paths:(1) Complementors use commercial ways to reduce the added value of leaders;(2) Complementors can directly enter the incumbent's field and become their competitors through horizontal or vertical business expansion;(3) Complementor has gradually become a focal position from the affiliated position in a certain field, through the improvement of their own technology.Chinese electric vehicle ecosystem is a case of catching up and leaping from the perspective of complementary technologies. Based on complementary technologies, China's electric vehicle sector has three advantages in the process of catching up with and leaping over Western countries: big market advantages, industrial opportunities, and national industrial policy opportunities. Therefore, Chinese companies need to apply complementary technologies to business areas that can generate the greatest value for market users and supply chain companies in different situations, in order to achieve catch-up and leapfrog with Western technologies. By analyzing the intelligent driving technology patents of Baidu,Google, Tesla and Huawei, this paper effectively validates the catch-up and leapfrog strategy based on complementary technologies.Finally, in this paper starting from the windows of opportunity and the macro environment, relevant countermeasures for China in the process of catching up are put forward. This article aims to provide theoretical references and suggestions for developing countries in the digital economy era to better seize the windows of opportunity to achieve innovation catch-up and government policy formulation.


Key Words: the fourth industrial revolution;digital economy;windows of opportunity;complementary technology;catch up and leapfrog


Authors: Ma Tianyue, Wang Qian, Liu Yilin

Author: China International Development Knowledge Center

School of Economics and Management, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences

The full text has been published in Science and Science and Technology Management, Issue 3, 2022.

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