Unrelated diversification in latecomer contexts—The emergence of the Chinese solar photovoltaics industry
New industries emerge in increasingly complex spatial patterns that challenge existing explanations of industrial path creation. In particular, the case of latecomer regions building up industries in fields that are unrelated to their previous industrial capabilities is not well understood in the literature. This paper aims to address this gap by expanding on an analytical framework that draws on innovation studies and catching-up literature to characterize unrelated diversification processes in latecomer contexts. A case study in the Chinese solar photovoltaics (PV) sector reveals an industry formation process that differs from traditional models of industry formation. The PV industry emerged from a highly internationalized entrepreneurial project in which Chinese firms directly mobilized knowledge, markets, investment and technology legitimacy developing outside China and combined them with the country’s generic capabilities in mass-manufacturing. In some industries, globalization thus enables a new model of industry formation that heavily draws heavily on extra-regional system resources.