Fast-follower industrial dynamics: The case of Taiwan's emergent solar photovoltaic industry

John A. Mathews, Mei Chih Hu, Ching Yan Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


The world is on the cusp of major transformations of energy systems, with solar photovoltaic (PV) systems providing one of the most promising alternatives to fossil fuels. Amongst the countries moving to take advantage of the new production possibilities thus being opened up is Taiwan, employing in this new sector its characteristic strategies of fast followership that it has perfected in earlier industrial shifts involving semiconductors, ICT products and flat panel displays. This paper provides an interim assessment of Taiwan's early entry strategies, involving a focus on mainstream crystalline silicon solar cells, as well as entry into emerging niche sectors such as thin-film second-generation cells and concentrated solar cells utilizing novel semiconductor materials. Taiwan firms' fast-follower strategies are highlighted and assessed in light of the literature on industrial dynamics and catch-up processes generally. The paper makes a contribution to theory in building nine propositions regarding fast followership, based on prior industrial experiences and this latest episode in the solar PV industry. Taiwan's strategies as a model for China are discussed, while the paper proposes Taiwan as an alternative to the "closed" and "open" models of photovoltaic diffusion identified for Japan and the USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-202
Number of pages26
JournalIndustry and Innovation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


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