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How do global manufacturing shifts affect long-term clean energy innovation? A study of wind energy suppliers

Clean energy technologies are important for meeting long-term climate and competitiveness goals. But clean energy industries are part of global value chains (GVCs), where past manufacturing shifts from developed to emerging economies have raised questions on a decline in long-term innovation.

Our research centers on how geographic shifts in the GVC shape long-term innovation, i.e., innovation in a time frame within which “mission-oriented”, societal, or firm strategic objectives need to be met rather than tactical, near-term market competitiveness alone. Focusing on wind energy, we introduce a temporal measure to distinguish between long-term and short-term innovation, applying natural language processing methods on patent text data.

We consider supply-side value chain factors (i.e., manufacturing supplier relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)) and demand-side factors (i.e., policy-induced clean energy market growth), shaping the patenting activities of 358 global specialized wind suppliers (2006–2016).

Our findings suggest that the wind industry did not suppress long-term innovation during manufacturing shifts, in this case to China. After 2012 when China developed a large wind market, long-term innovation increased by 80.7% in European suppliers working with non-European OEMs (including Chinese) and by 67.2% in Chinese suppliers working with non-Chinese OEMs.

Our results highlight the importance of coupling international manufacturing relationships with sizeable local demand for inducing long-term innovation. Our results advance research in innovation, GVCs, and green industrial policy with implications for several industries that can contribute to climate mitigation.


C. Doblinger, K. Surana, D. Li, N. Hultman, L. Diaz Anadón, How do global manufacturing shifts affect long-term clean energy innovation? A study of wind energy suppliers, Research Policy 51 (7) (2022) 104558.

Kavita Surana

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