Intangible assets, the digitalization of production and the development - energy nexus

Steven Knauss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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Initially based in the ICT sector, technologies based on intangible assets have since generalized throughout the economy and are playing a central role in the digitalization of manufacturing. As global value chains (GVCs) potentially bring such changes to developing countries, hopes are raised for “sustainable industrialization,” where the greater scalability, spillovers and synergies engendered by intangible assets could favor more rapid economic upgrading while at the same time unleashing significant gains in energy efficiency. To better assess the plausibility of such projections, this paper conducts a cross-country panel study of GVCs in 30 sectors and 67 countries between 1995 and 2018. The link is explored between the intangible asset intensity of GVCs and each of the two pillars of sustainable industrialization: energy efficiency and developing country upgrading. The results find little evidence for the optimistic view, suggesting that intangible spillovers in GVCs may be limited by winner take most dynamics and tendencies toward intellectual property monopolies. The path toward sustainable structural transformation in developing economies is therefore likely to require more active forms of industrial policy and a financial architecture that favors them.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Number of pages63
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2023

Publication series

SeriesEcological Economic Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • Ecological Economic Papers


  • global value chains
  • development
  • intangible assets
  • energy efficiency

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