Innovation, upgrading, and governance in cross-sectoral global value chains: The case of smartphones

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The fourth industrial revolution challenges the existing understanding of innovation and upgrading in the global economy. It blurs traditional sectoral boundaries based on distinctive products and technologies and calls into question a traditional global value chain (GVC) perspective, which, similar to the sectoral systems of innovation approach, examines innovation and upgrading from a sector-based orientation. Building upon the recent reformulation and extension of GVC governance theory, this article proposes the notion of cross-sectoral GVC governance to capture the new stage of platform-based industrial development. It specifies the conceptual dimensions of cross-sectoral GVC governance in terms of the mode of governance (i.e., driving, linking, and normalizing), the overall GVC structure in terms of polarity, and firm strategies of managing GVCs. The proposed framework is illustrated using the case of smartphones as a platform product, focusing on four lead firms - Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and Google - to showcase divergent firm strategies for governing cross-sectoral linkages related to innovation and upgrading.






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Lee, J, and G Gereffi (2021). Innovation, upgrading, and governance in cross-sectoral global value chains: The case of smartphones. Industrial and Corporate Change, 30(1). pp. 215–231. 10.1093/icc/dtaa062 Retrieved from

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Gary Gereffi

Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Gary Gereffi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University (  He has published over a dozen books and numerous articles on globalization, industrial upgrading, and social and economic development, and he is one of the originators of the global value chains framework.  His most recent books are:  Handbook on Global Value Chains (co-edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert), Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. 2019); and Global Value Chains and Development: Redefining the Contours of 21st Century Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  Current projects include:  (1) the impact of U.S. protectionism on jobs and regional trade agreements; (2) evaluating how the digital economy and Industry 4.0 are likely to affect international business strategies and industrial upgrading; and (3) shifting regional interdependencies in East Asia and North America, with a focus on China, South Korea and Mexico vis-à-vis the United States.

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