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Reaching the efficiency frontier in skill, capital, and knowledge-intensive industries in Spain and South Korea

Strand Building, Strand Campus, London


Join us at the London Asia Pacific Centre (LAPC) on 20 March where special guest, Professor Angela Garcia Calvo, will be talking about her new book, State-Firm Coordination and Upgrading: Reaching the Efficiency Frontier in Skill-, Capital-, and Knowledge-Intensive Industries in Spain and South Korea (Oxford University Press 2021).

Since the 1980s, Spain and South Korea have experienced a dramatic transformation from middle-income to advanced economies. While market liberalization and globalization were important forces for change, and while states continue to be central in the organization of the Spanish and South Korean economies, the liberal and the developmental state perspectives do not provide an understanding of critical elements of these transformations.

Building on a combination of historical institutionalism and international business literature, her book shows that upgrading was underpinned by cooperative models based on interdependencies and quid pro quo exchanges between national governments and large firms. The negotiated nature of these arrangements opened the door to institutional variation and enabled Spain and South Korea to pursue different strategies. Spain pursued an integrational approach based on foreign direct investment, technological outsourcing, and regional integration. South Korea pursued a techno-industrial strategy that prioritized self-sufficiency and the development of local technological capacity. Both strategies enabled Spanish and South Korean firms across multiple complex sectors to reach the efficiency frontier but resulted in different productive specializations in complex services and manufacturing respectively.

Through a comparative study this book shifts our perspective on the political economy of economic transformation: from markets or states to state-firm coordination, as a driver for economic transformation; from one, to at least two, different pathways to upgrading; and from a world divided into emerging economies and world leaders, to a more nuanced perspective that recognizes the perspective of new advanced economies.

The talk will be followed by her more recent paper, entitled 'Production Networks and Novel Innovation in the Semi-Periphery: The transition to Electric Vehicles in South Korea and Spain'.

This is an in-person event only. Registration required.


Angela Garcia Calvo is an assistant professor at the Henley Business School at the University of Reading (UK). She received her PhD at the London School of Economics. Garcia Calvo’s research explores the ways that business and policy choices shape the transformation of capitalisms. Garcia Calvo’s research has been published or is under review at New Political Economy, Industrial and Corporate Change, World Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, and Business and Politics.

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