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Benchmarking green innovation


Competences for green technologies in Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) are becoming increasingly urgent from a global perspective. We define NIC as countries which undergo rapid economic growth with a corresponding change in economic structure from mostly agricultural societies to a society dominated by the industrial sector and increasing services. Green technologies open up opportunities for reducing emissions; the prospect of exporting them can provide incentives for NICs to develop them as key technologies for their economies. In addition, this could trigger further demand for green technologies in both low-income economies and traditional member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In order to assess the challenges associated with this, a benchmarking exercise is performed and its benefits and limitations discussed. From a conceptual point of view, technological benchmarking of green technologies (sustainability benchmarking) can be distinguished from capability benchmarking. For both types of benchmarking, a top–down perspective (overall level of the economy) and a sectoral bottom–up perspective (focusing on the important field of industrial energy efficiency technologies) is taken. Traditional OECD countries and Newly Industrializing Countries are benchmarked in this process, complemented with a look, in selected cases, to low-income economies. We focus on energy-related green technologies though a broader view occurs also on other green technologies like material efficiency or water efficiency. The empirical analysis shows a wide range of results. From a top–down view, it can be seen that some NICs have been catching up and are in the same benchmark clusters as a variety of traditional OECD countries. In the more detailed bottom–up view, this trend is also starting for industrial energy efficiency technologies; however it is not as pronounced yet, as on the more aggregated level of all green technologies. The comparisons between capability benchmarking and sustainability benchmarking show some parallels, but also differences. By and large, countries with a higher capability are also receiving a higher evaluation with regard to sustainability benchmarking. However, the variations within each capability cluster and group also show that other factors are important. Looking into these factors and their role for explaining the differences and dynamics for green innovation, provides room for further research.

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  1. See the discussion of the definition of the notion of NICs further on in the text.

  2. For such countries also the term “Newly Industrialized Countries” is used.

  3. We refer in particular to the MDG7—Ensure Environmental Sustainability though other goals are also linked to environmental sustainability.

  4. The 2010 EPI ranks 163 countries on 25 performance indicators tracked across ten policy categories covering both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality.

  5. Another interesting and fruitful field of benchmarking analysis will be material intensity, which has been the topic of various publications recently (how to measure material efficiency; see OECD 2008; Bringezu and Bleischwitz 2009; Bleischwitz 2010; Walz 2010).

  6. More recently, the European Patent Office EPO has started a process to develop the Y02-Classification which allows to present energy supply technologies in patent classifications.

  7. There were no export data for Taiwan in the UN-COMTRADE available.


  9. We have related the industrial energy consumption to the value added of manufacturing in order to remove the distorting effect of the large revenues from energy industries in oil and gas producing countries such as Algeria, Kasakhstan, Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela. Those industries add little to energy consumption but increase industrial value added several times. In other countries the difference between manufacturing and industrial value added is much smaller.

  10. It has to be noted that energy intensities are next to energy efficiency also influenced by differences in industrial structures which may explain partly the large spread of intensities within one category.


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Correspondence to Rainer Walz.



Table 6 Country abbreviations according to ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes

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Walz, R., Eichhammer, W. Benchmarking green innovation. Miner Econ 24, 79–101 (2012).

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  • Green technologies
  • Newly industrializing countries
  • Absorptive capacities
  • Patents
  • Export pattern
  • Innovation policy

JEL classification

  • F14
  • O14
  • O3