International product life cycles, trade and development stages

David Audretsch, Mark Sanders, Lu Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper we first propose a proxy for early stage activity in a country's exports based on product life cycle theory. Employing a conditional latent class model, we then examine the relationship between this measure and economic growth for 93 countries during the period 1988-2005. We find that the impact of early stage activity differs across three clusters of countries. And we find that GDP levels can predict the cluster and the sign of the coefficient in a non-linear manner. In the richest countries, exporting products that are in an early stage of their product life cycle is associated with higher growth rates. In contrast, we find a cluster of middle income countries with high growth rates that grow faster by exporting more mature products that are in the later stages of their life cycle. Finally, early stage activity has no significant impact on growth in the cluster of the poorest, developing countries. Countries in early stages of development should focus on acquiring market share in mature markets with routine technologies whereas emerging economies face the challenge of at some point switching from copying mature to inventing new products as they approach the global technology frontier. At that frontier they must join the advanced economies who specialise in early stage innovative products to stay ahead of increasing competition from abroad.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-44
Number of pages44
JournalThe Journal of Technology Transfer
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • product life cycles
  • trade
  • maturity
  • economic growth
  • conditional latent class model

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