Innovation and Catch-up in Platform Economy (ICPE) project


Digital platform companies play an important role in the digital society and economy. They create social and economic value by bridging the gaps, creating connectivity, facilitating engagement and interactions between two or more individuals or economic agents, and fostering business activities as well as income and job creation with greater inclusiveness.

The digital economy is dominated by a few technology giants, founded and located in developed economies. Today, due to the rapid catch-up and advancement in digital technologies, technology companies that originated from developing countries are also emerging as key leaders in the platform ecosystem. According to Brown (2019), 11 of the world’s top 15 digital technology companies are based in the US, which makes it the country which currently hosts the world’s leading innovators and developers of digital technology. Two of the remaining four world-leading companies are from a developing country, China. Research to investigate how large Chinese companies catch-up, up and leapfrog their competitors, would contribute greatly to management theory, and help firms in developing economies that have not traditionally been early adopters.

What is the aim of the project?

The Innovation and Catch-up in Platform Economy (ICPE) project aims to examine the key factors that drive technological innovation and catch-up of world-leading technology companies from developing countries in the digital sector. It will also investigate how the ecosystems used by the digital platforms are developed through innovation strategies. There will be a particular focus on analyzing the lessons that can be learnt from the experiences of innovative Chinese platform companies, to better understand their successes in technological catch-up, internal R&D management, product innovation, and ecosystem development, for example, Tencent. Both quantitative methods and qualitative interviews will be used in the analysis of related research questions.

The findings of the study will contribute to our understanding of innovation strategy and R&D management in internet companies, especially in effective digital product innovation, value creation and capturing through the innovative application of basic technology and innovation empowered ecosystem development, and the role of social impact-orientation in driven inclusive innovation. The results of the study should provide valuable managerial insights, and suggest policy implications for other businesses that are latecomers in this field, in both the developing and developed countries.

Who is working on this project?

This project is being undertaken by the Technology & Management Centre for Development (TMCD) – University of Oxford

The TMCD at Oxford University is a world-leading research centre focusing on some of the most important issues related to technology and development facing public and private policymakers today. It has an established reputation for world-class research on innovation, technology and development, trade, foreign direct investment, and economic development in the developing world. The Centre has also developed research in the area of policy and management of innovation and green technology transformation, and the role of trade and foreign direct investment in facilitating international technology transfer in green technology.

The Principal Investigator on this project is Professor Xiaolan Fu, Professor of Technology and International Development at ODID and the Director of TMCD. Professor Fu is supported on this project by Ms. Lorraine Watling and two Research Officers.

Project progress

  • The Innovation and Catch-up in Platform Economy(ICPE) Project started in early 2021.
  • The research staff are all in place, including the Principal Investigator and two research officers.
  • Innovation Survey commenced in September 2021. As part of the project, a detailed questionnaire was recently developed that is based on the research framework requirements identified by the project members. The questionnaire asks respondents about corporate culture, talent policy, learning behavior, innovation performance, etc. This questionnaire is being used in a large-scale survey. It will involve thousands of employees and managers who work for a world-leading Internet company in China. The survey has been completed in December 2021 and will result in an analysis report based on the data collected. This survey will help us to examine the key factors that drive technological innovation and catch-up by world-leading technology companies from developing countries in the digital sector.
  • The qualitative research started since November 2021. The interview questions were developed around the main research themes, including internal innovation mechanisms, talent management, etc. 
  • By November 2022, we had conducted thirty-seven interviews with forty-one managers and employees in the case company, and more interview data will be collected in the next few months to address research questions.
Latest project updates
Leading academics, policymakers and business leaders convene to discuss digital technologies and platforms at TMCD online conference
TMCD ICPE Project Holds 2022 Forum Focused on South - South Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation