Value chain governance in the age of platforms

Discussion Papers


by John Humphrey

April 2018


Global value chain (GVC) theory focuses globalisation in the late 20th century. While the theory claims to apply generally to interfirm relationships, much of GVC analysis has focused on the incorporation of developing country manufacturers into the supply chains of global lead firms. This literature has frequently expressed doubts about whether integration into such chains offers opportunities for innovation and upgrading. More recently, globalised production has seen the emergence of market and technology platforms and platform leaders. The distinctive feature of platforms is that they require innovation by other companies to turn platforms into products. Analysis of platform governance can contribute to the further development of GVC governance theory. Using secondary material on platform leaders such as Intel and Apple and primary research on Chinese-owned mobile phone companies, the paper shows how examination of governance in the context of platforms allows a recuperation of understudied and undertheorised elements of GVC governance theory.

Keywords: global value chains, governance, platforms, platform leadership, standards

JEL classification: D23, F2, L14, L20

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