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Chinese low-carbon innovation: developing technological capabilities in the solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry

Marigo, N., Foxton, T. J. and Pearson, Peter J. G. 2010. Chinese low-carbon innovation: developing technological capabilities in the solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry. Journal of Knowledge-based Innovation in China 2 (3) , pp. 253-268. 10.1108/17561411011077891

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse the innovation effort underway in China to develop domestic technological capacity for the manufacturing of a low-carbon energy technology: solar photovoltaics (PV). Design/methodology/approach – A framework for analysis based on the “technological capability” (TC) literature was developed and applied to explore the innovative capacities and performance of the Chinese PV manufacturers. The paper draws on a survey conducted in China in mid-2005 with a selected number of PV manufacturers, as well as on personal interviews with other Chinese PV stakeholders and international experts. Findings – The paper shows that by 2005 PV firms in China had progressed well beyond basic operational capabilities and were quickly moving away from being mere users of imported PV components. Despite the existence of considerable differences between the firms, their competitiveness extended beyond the use of relatively cheap labour to the reduction of production costs through TC improvements. The paper recognises that the Chinese firms had developed innovation capacity only in the most mature PV technology family, i.e. crystalline silicon, which could leave them vulnerable if new PV technology families takeover. Moreover, the Chinese Government has not so far chosen to build upon its dynamic low-carbon PV industry by promoting long-term measures for the development of the domestic PV market. Consequently, challenges remain for the industry. Originality/value – There has been limited previous research into China's capacity for PV innovation, how it is developing and how it might be improved. The paper shows that a better understanding of these aspects has important bearings on China's low-carbon future and on potential development of a significant export industry.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
T Technology > TS Manufactures
Uncontrolled Keywords: Carbon, China, Energy technology, Environmental management, Innovation, Solar power
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 1756-1418
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:30

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