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Rasmus Lema

Aalborg University

Rasmus Lema is an Associate Professor at Aalborg University Business School. He obtained his DPhil degree from the Institute of Development studies at the University of Sussex. His areas of specialization are global value chains, innovation systems and low carbon innovation.
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publication
Sustainable Global Supply Chains Report 2022

Global supply chains affect the economy, the environment and social welfare in many ways. Worldwide, economies are experiencing global supply shortages today, affecting key industries such as automotive and consumer electronics as well as vaccine and medical supplies industries. These preoccupy policymakers, who are debating independent national production capacities and restrictions on international trade, but also large companies, which consider reshoring production and abandoning just-in-time procurement. At the same time, the greening of the global economy requires a restructuring of global production to massively decrease its environmental footprint. This creates new supply chain challenges – how to move towards circular economies and how to reorient energy-intensive industries towards renewables and green hydrogen, for example. And let‘s not forget: Consumers are increasingly demanding higher social and environmental standards. Transparency requirements and binding due diligence obligations will in particular affect countries that export raw materials and labour-intensive goods produced under problematic environmental and social conditions. All of this calls for policies that shape global supply chains in accordance with globally agreed social and environmental objectives. Policies along these lines will have to balance the legitimate interests of different countries and they may easily fail to achieve their objectives unless they are firmly grounded in a thorough understanding of the respective structures in supply chains, including the power relations between the actors. Further, the economic, social and environmental effects of alternative policy options need to be well understood. Science can make an important contribution here, especially if it maintains a constant dialogue with politics and society. This is why the international “Research Network Sustainable Global Supply Chains” was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It currently comprises about 100 internationally leading scientists from all over the world and is jointly coordinated by our four institutes. Its tasks are: To conduct and stimulate research that contributes to making supply chains more sustainable; and to collect and synthesize the best international research on this topic and make it accessible to policy makers and other societal actors. In addition to its own research, the network organises academic conferences and discussions with policymakers, organises a blog and produces podcasts. With this report – the first in a new annual series – we present new research highlights, provide a forum to debate controversial supply chain topics and identify policy-relevant research gaps for the network‘s future work. The report is, at the same time, an invitation to participate in the discussions on how investment, production and trade will be reorganized in a global economy that has to respond to geopolitical challenges.

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blog
Integration in global IT value chains does not necessarily improve innovation capacity
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publication
Demand-led catch-up: a history-friendly model of latecomer development in the global green economy

This article examines the role played by demand in catching up and in leadership changes in green industries, motivated by the belief that demand-led catch-up is a prevalent pathway in such industries. The article first examines stylized cases of sectoral green catch-up by China in which the local market and domestic demand played an important role before the sector started expanding globally. In particular, the focus is on three industries: wind, biomass and hydropower. Then, it uses a history-friendly model to study the effects of a major increase in domestic demand (a “demand window”) in a green industry. The baseline simulation first examines the effects of a demand window in promoting learning and capability building by latecomers and in triggering a catch-up process. Then, the counterfactual simulations show that (i) a technological discontinuity which takes place after the demand window could reduce the effectiveness of the demand window in the catch-up process; (ii) the specific timing of the demand window could significantly alter the dynamic patterns of catch-up; (iii) protectionism is a necessary condition for the demand window to have its effect; and (iv) regimes of slow capability accumulation could turn out to be beneficial for the latecomer when a technological discontinuity follows the demand window. These results can help policymakers in identifying key conditions related to demand-led catch-up strategies.

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publication
Innovation in global value chains

In this chapter, the authors focus on innovation in global value chains and on the role that such chains play in building and deepening capability. They also focus on the trajectories along which firms, located in developing countries, once inserted into global value chains acquire or lose innovation capability. To do so, they bring together the global value chains and innovation systems approaches. Their key arguments are that global value chains interact with innovation systems in multiple ways and that these interactions have important implications for the speed, depth and overall quality of capability building in developing-country firms. They outline five innovation capability trajectories and show how capability building at the firm level interrelates with the various ways in which global value chains and innovation systems co-evolve.

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