Moving from a catching up position towards international leadership: lessons from the coffee sector in Costa Rica
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The contribution of any specific sector to the development of a country evolves along the time. In some periods a country can move from a catching up towards a leading position with respect other countries. The factors explaining this change of position is related to the evolution of the system of innovation. This kind of phenomena has been studied by different authors using an approach of sectoral system of innovation. This paper presents a study on the evolution of the coffee sector in Costa Rica, assessing the main innovations in different stages of development and the evolution of the sectoral system of innovation. The research project was based in a literature survey complemented by interviews to experts and actors in the sector, and with the analysis of data bases. The main argument is that there are different stages of development of the coffee sector, in which the role of the main dimensions of the sectoral system (institutions, specific actors, networks, agglomeration economies, human capital, and learning processes by firms) have evolved, giving the condition to relevant institutional and technological innovations. The sector changes from a catching up position for many years towards a leading position in the last decade. A result is that Costa Rica is passing from exporting coffee as a raw product to export intensive knowledge coffee, in which R&D and several institutional innovations results in the specialization on high quality coffee with one of the highest productivity in plantations in the world.