Neil Coe

Multi-stakeholder Initiatives in the Cotton Value Chains of South Asia

Principal investigator: Peter Lund-Thomsen, Copenhagen Business School
Funding Source: Danish Social Science Research Council
Grant Amount: £220,000

The overall objective of this research project is to analyze (i) how multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI) for sustainable cotton production are formulated, implemented, and monitored in the cotton value chains of South Asia; and (ii) whether the processes through which MSIs are institutionalized in South Asia make any difference to the income, work, and environmental conditions of cotton farmers and on-farm workers in this region. These objectives will be achieved through the development of a theoretical framework that analyzes the processes through which sustainable cotton MSIs emerge, how they are institutionalized in different institutional contexts in the developing world, and how a variety of global forces (MSIs in global value chains (GVCs)) and local forces (national institutional contexts, local industrialization strategies, and the agency of workers/farmers) co-determine cotton producers’/on-farm workers’ income, work, and environmental conditions in developing countries. The framework is then applied to a comparative study of the evolution of the world’s largest sustainable cotton MSI – the Better Cotton Initiative - and its effects in South Asia (India and Pakistan).


Neil Coe

The Variegated Impacts of Transnational Retailing in Southeast Asia

Funding Source: NUS Start-Up Grant
Grant Amount: S$93,000

This project explores how retail markets in Southeast Asian economies are being remade on an ongoing basis through the interactions of retail TNCs and their institutional contexts. It unpacks context-specific dynamics and multiple forms of impact. The project combines state-of-the-art theories of retail TNCs and their global production networks with conceptualizations of different national host market regulatory and institutional contexts. In theoretical terms, it will aim to explore the dynamic, market-specific intersections between retail TNCs and national retail markets. Accordingly, the research objectives that underpin this project are as follows:
  • To scope the level and extent of retail TNC investment in the 10 ASEAN economies of Southeast Asia;
  • To profile the impacts of retail TNC investment across the 10 ASEAN economies of Southeast Asia;
  • Using Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as case studies, to explore how the nature, scale and intensity of those impacts are shaped by host economy institutional and regulatory impacts;
  • To theorise, from an evolutionary perspective, the variable intersections between retail global production networks and different national institutional and regulatory regimes.

Henry Yeung

NUS T1 Grant for a GVC-GPN Research Workshop (January 2011-March 2012)
This invitation-only event was held in Singapore at the beginning of December 2011. We invited 15 participants from different disciplinary and geographical origins who presented their papers at a workshop specifically organized to explore future directions in the field of global value chain (GVC) and production network (GPN) research. The workshop was convened as a forward-looking forum for leading global researchers to identify new research priorities within the field, with particular reference to the international political economy of global development. It was prompted by a perception that different research groups around the world were applying and contributing to the core ideas of value chain and production network research with different conceptual frameworks and terminologies. What this workshop and the two post-workshop IRJ special issues hope to achieve is a cross-fertilization of ideas in order to generate new productive agendas and engagements across research communities. Seven of the workshop participants are authors of highly cited work on GVCs and GPNs - identified as the top 20 research fronts in the ISI Essential Science Indicators. 8 papers were published in the 2014 special issue on “global value chains and global production networks in the changing international political economy’, Review of International Political Economy, Vol.21(1), pp.1-274.

NUS Humanities and Social Science Seed Grant (January 2014 to December 2015): developing a new research programme on global production networks.


More Info


The Globalisation of the Temporary Staffing Industry

Funding Source: ESRC
Grant Amount: £138,500
Project Researchers: Neil Coe and joint PI with Kevin Ward, University of Manchester

By the late 2000s the global temporary staffing market was worth over US$250 billion annually and was dominated by an elite group of 20 American, Western European and Japanese agencies who accounted for some 40 percent of the global market. These largest agencies had been pursuing twin strategies of internationalisation and diversification. And yet, until this project, there had been very little work on the organisational geographies and strategies of these major transnational corporations. In light of this our project had six objectives:
  1. to identify the leading transnational temporary staffing agencies, and to map their activities at the global/national scale;
  2. to undertake a comparative analysis of the geographical growth strategies of transnational temporary staffing agencies;
  3. to undertake a comparative analysis of the organisational structures of transnational temporary staffing agencies;
  4. to explore how the activities of transnational temporary staffing agencies in particular countries are embedded in the wider production networks of the firm;
  5. to explore how the activities of transnational temporary staffing agencies in particular countries are both embedded in, and shaped by, the political-institutional and competitive contexts in which they are operating and;
  6. to investigate the wider regulatory consequences of the expansion of the temporary staffing industry. For the project, 91 interviews were conducted with firms and institutions in Australia, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland and Sweden, as well as at corporate HQs in the UK, US and Western Europe.


More Info


Making the connections: global production networks in Europe and East Asia

Project Researchers: Peter Dicken and Jeff Henderson, University of Manchester
Funding Source: ESRC
Grant Amount: £334,000

The purpose of this research project was to investigate the extent to which the EU, East Asia and Eastern Europe constitute an inter-connected nexus of economic relationships and to explore the implications for these economies. Our approach was to develop the concept of the global production network (GPN) in three sectors: automobile components, electronics (particularly mobile telecommunications and computer entertainment) and retailing. The primary objectives were to:
  • enhance our understanding of the theoretical bases of GPNs as a major mechanism through which economic processes are transmitted between geographically dispersed operations and regions;
  • investigate the economic interconnections between Britain, other parts of the EU, East Asia and Eastern Europe; explore the ways in which GPNs impact on the development of national and regional economies in the ‘world-regions’ under investigation;
  • evaluate the implications of GPNs for upgrading domestic companies, skill development, adding and capturing value etc.;
  • evaluate the extent to which national and/or local government bodies and other non-firm agencies are capable of exerting influence on the strategic behaviour of firms to the benefit of their respective economies.
  • 161 semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior executives of leading companies and institutions in 13 countries in Europe and East Asia, together with extensive documentary research and analysis of trade and FDI data. The project thus constituted one of the most comprehensive firm-based surveys so far undertaken within a production network framework.


More Info


Godfrey Yeung

Technology intensity of industrial production and its comparative regional dynamics in the U.S. and China (2013-16)

Project Researchers: David Rigby, UCLA and Canfei He, Peking University

Through quantitative analysis of a highly disaggregated Sino-US trade dataset and other corresponding socio-economic datasets in China and the U.S., and with complementary field surveys in China and the U.S., this research project aims to examine the geographies of regional specialization and industrial agglomeration in the U.S. and China since the 1990s. We aim to identify the drivers that could generate complementary effects between and within industrial sectors for the formation of industrial clusters, the transfer of technologies and knowledge, and to examine the possible inertia of industrial restructuring at different geographical levels. By examining how and to what extent international trade, an important element in the economic linkages between lead firms and local suppliers, could impact on the (uneven) economic development of industrial clusters, this empirically grounded research will contribute to the theoretical development of international trade and two main sub-branches of economic geography, evolutionary economic geography and relational economic geography.

Soo Yeon Kim

From Regionalization to Regionalism: Multinational Firms, Production Networks, and Deep Integration PTAs in Asia

Principal investigator: Soo-Yeon Kim

This book-length project examines the role of multinational firms’ regional production networks in shaping deep integration commitments in Asia’s preferential trade agreements (PTAs). Engaging the broader issue of the trajectory of the region’s economic integration, the study considers Asia’s expanding network of preferential trade agreements as the next stage of regional integration, which emphasizes active state-led cooperation and coordination in regulatory areas. The analyses focus on deep integration commitments that concern ‘behind the border’ trade rules, specifically provisions concerning technical barriers to trade (TBTs), competition policy, and investment regulations in the trade agreements concluded by Asian countries. The project contributes to the scholarship on the political economy of trade with an examination of multinational firms as political actors that consolidate, communicate, and contest institutional preferences in their host as well as home countries. The study also considers the extent to which Asia contributes to the diffusion of deep integration trade agreements in the global network of PTAs.


More Info


Davin Chor

Organizing the Global Value Chain

Project Researchers: Laura Alfaro, Harvard Business School, Pol Antràs, Harvard University, and Paola Conconi, ECARES

This project studies the complex organizational decisions that firms make over the sourcing of their inputs, when the production process in question is inherently sequential in nature. Which production stages would a firm be more likely to integrate within its ownership boundaries, and which stages would it outsource? How does the production line position or “upstreamness” of the stage affect this integration vs outsourcing decision? In “Organizing the Global Value Chain” (Econometrica 2013, joint with Pol Antràs, Harvard), we develop a model based on the Grossman-Hart-Moore “property rights” approach to the theory of the firm that allows us to answer these questions. (For more information, please see:
In ongoing work (with Laura Alfaro, HBS, Pol Antràs, Harvard, and Paola Conconi, ECARES), we are developing further implications of the model and pursuing empirical evidence using detailed firm-level data.

The Global Production Line Position of Chinese Firms

Project Researchers: Kalina Manova, Stanford University and Yu Zhihong, The University of Nottingham

How have the production activities of Chinese firms evolved over time? Viewed from the perspective of global value chains, have Chinese firms become more upstream or more downstream in the production stages that they occupy, and what implications has this had for firm performance? In this project (joint with Kalina Manova, Stanford, and Yu Zhihong, Nottingham), we seek to provide answers to these questions using detailed firm-level customs and manufacturing survey data from China since 2000.

Karen Lai

Market Mobilities: Tracing Networks of Capital and Knowledge in Hong Kong and Greater China, (2008-2010)

This project adopted a relational approach to the financial centre development of Hong Kong, focusing on its market systems, regulatory environment, expertise and the networks of regulatory cooperation and business linkages with other centers such as Shanghai and Beijing. The study traced flows of capital, people and knowledge across Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing to examine how financial institutions and actors utilise differentiated markets in strategies of regulatory arbitrage and longer term business growth.

Imagineering ‘Emerging Markets’: fund managers and financial knowledge networks in Singapore, Hong Kong and London (2002 – 2004)

This project investigates how ‘EMs’ as an investment category is imagined and practiced by those in the fund management industry through knowledge networks and how such networks are produced and maintained. Actors in Singapore and London are also embedded in different knowledge networks, which offer different strategic advantages but, when taken together, form a complex and multi-layered knowledge production network of ‘imagineering’ Asian EMs from both within and outside of Asia.

Kurtuluş Gemici

Institutional Foundations of Credit Markets

This project proposes a novel sociological theory to analyze one of the most vital—yet also one of the least studied—area of capitalist economy: credit creation. The recognition that credit is an essential aspect of capitalism harkens back to classical political economy. Furthermore, thinkers as illustrious as Marx, Keynes, and Schumpeter wrote on the functioning of credit markets under capitalism. Despite such an intellectual heritage, there are few empirical studies on the topic. Yet the recent financial crisis has shown, in unmistakable terms, the importance of credit and credit expansion for the operation of a capitalist economy. This project fills this analytical void by examining the institutional foundations of credit creation in financial markets. In particular, this project shows how specific norms, shared beliefs, and techniques shape the supply of credit in financial markets.

Albert Hu

Foreign Direct Investment, Intellectual Property Protection and Technological innovation in Chinese Industry (on-going, in collaboration with China's National Bureau of Statistics)

In collaboration with China’s National Bureau of Statistics, we investigate how policy and institutions influence the rate and direction of technological change in Chinese industrial enterprises. These policies and institutions include China's FDI policy, intellectual property rights regime, government subsidies for R&D and patenting. The research is conducted using a Chinese firm-level census database, to which Chinese patent office patent information has been matched.

Shin Jang-Sup

Principal investigator: Shin Jang-Sup
Funding Source: NUS FASS Research Grant R-122-000-056-112 (2002-2005)

The research investigates reasons for emerging different patterns of GPNs in East Asia and related changes in competitive strategies of the firms by focusing on the semiconductor industry. This led to in-depth interviews with officials of Samsung Electronics and explicated the reasons why it was able to maintain technological leadership in the memory segment for more than a decade, which was unprecedented in the segment.

  • Home
  • Research
  • Projects