What can emerging countries do to boost economic prosperity while solving environmental sustainability issues? Conventional research that focuses on economic growth argues that emerging countries should replicate best industrial practices from the West in a step-wise manner. The more radical approach of directly becoming global industrial leaders (i.e. leapfrogging), has been treated as an improbable anomaly in existing studies. RADEC posits that due to emerging fundamental shifts in technologies, business models, and new conditions of globalization and environmental sustainability, leapfrogging will become increasingly realistic for latecomers. Past studies, which have mostly focused on conditions for accumulating knowledge in latecomer countries to foster economic growth, is incapable to explain the implications of these transformations.
RADEC seeks to develop a new theory on conditions and mechanisms for leapfrogging in the new techno-economic era that also proactively considers environmental sustainability concerns. The project engages with the latest debates in several innovation studies disciplines, including industrial catching-up, sustainability transitions, economic geography as well as science and technology policies. It aims to map out new leapfrogging pathways that break away from globally existing norms; identify new leapfrogging mechanisms beyond the conventional knowledge and technology focus; explicate how new governance configurations will drive these mechanisms; and propose policy mixes that facilitate new leapfrogging trajectories.
RADEC will analyse four ideal-type development pathways to meet the challenges of the green era: global niche positioning; global co-leadership governance; indigenous industry formation; and green global value chains. RADEC applies an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods in order to capture key causal mechanisms and novel governance structures in the emerging water and sanitation systems in China, India and South Africa. By this, it aims to push the frontier of our understanding on world industrial development and sustainability transitions at the intersection of innovation and development studies.