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From Imitation to Innovation: The Evolution of R&D Capabilities and Learning Processes in the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry

Kale, D   Little, S

Technology Analysis and Strategic Management   19 (5) 589-609

September 2007

Research at Innogen: Innovation, Development and Global Health: Regulation ...

Since the mid 1990s the Indian pharmaceutical industry has emerged as a leading supplier of generic drugs to both developing and developed countries.The movement of the Indian pharmaceutical industry along the R&D value chain represents a remarkable shift from an importer to an innovator of drugs. The Indian government's industrial and technology policies along with changes in regulation of intellectual property rights played a crucial role in shaping this development of R&D capability.

Using the 'capability creation model' this paper discusses the learning processes and stages involved in this dramatic accumulation of technological capability. This analysis shows that the Indian pharmaceutical industry has followed a trajectory from duplicative imitation to creative imitation to move up the value chain of pharmaceutical R&D. Finally, as a result of changes in patent law the industry is learning to develop capabilities in innovative R&D. The basic and intermediate technological capabilities gained from imitative learning gave these firms a solid base for development of competence in advanced innovative R&D.

These findings have implications for government policies as well as firm strategies in other developing countries albeit with some limitations due to global harmonisation of patent laws being promoted by the World Trade Organization.