Rent appropriation in global value chains: The past, present, and future of intangible assets

Peter J. Buckley, Roger Strange, Marcel P. Timmer, Gaaitzen J. de Vries
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The argument of this article is that global strategy research should devote greater attention to rent appropriation in global value chains (GVCs). We discuss the concept of intangible assets, emphasize their scalability at low marginal cost and highlight strategies for the appropriation of rents from these assets. Returns captured by intangible assets are shown to be much greater than those captured by tangible assets in GVCs of manufactured products. Regions in the world are found to be specializing in different GVC stages, with China rising as a key location for rent generation in upstream and production activities. We conclude that the rents from intangible assets are major drivers of economic development and of corporate success and offer insights into rent appropriation trends in the future.


Marcel Timmer

University of Groningen

Gaaitzen de Vries

University of Groningen

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