Special Issue "Economic Complexity and Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. César A. Hidalgo
Guest Editor
Artificial and Natural Intelligence Toulouse Institute (ANITI), University of Toulouse, 31000 Toulouse, France
Interests: economic complexity; relatedness; economic geography; economic development; complex systems
Prof. María Semitiel-García
Guest Editor
Department of Applied Economics, University of Murcia, 30100 Murcia, Spain
Interests: sustainable human development; complex systems; socio-ecological systems; economic complexity; environmental governance
Dr. Philipp Aerni
Guest Editor
Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS), University of Zurich, Zähringerstrasse 24, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Interests: technological change; sustainable development; environmental policy; innovation for development; entrepreneurship; migration; public private partnerships
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Mr. Markus Schaefer
Guest Editor
Hosoya Schaefer Architects, Flüelastrasse 10, 8048 Zürich, Switzerland
Interests: urban design, urban development, urban innovation, industrious city, open data, complexity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last decade, economic development efforts have been marked by both a return of industrial policy [1–3] and the growing need to consider social and environmental sustainability [4–7]. At the intersection of both of these topics, we find important policy efforts, such as Europe’s Green Deal [8], and also a growing academic literature on economic complexity [9,10], green growth [11], green innovation [12,13], and sustainability. On the one hand, this literature is exploring how the product space [3] and the principle of relatedness [14] can facilitate an economy’s transition into green products [15–18]. On the other hand, this literature is exploring the connection between environmental sustainability and the complexity of an economy [19–22]. In fact, evidence thus far shows that economies tend to reduce emissions when they become sufficiently complex [21–23], and also, that higher complexity economies tend to experience lower levels of income inequality [7] and higher levels of human development [24].

The purpose of this Special Issue is to stimulate, promote, and gather research at the intersection between environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and economic complexity. We are looking for contributions exploring these and other topics:

  1. Relatedness and the development of green products/jobs/industries;
  2. Sustainability and global value chains;
  3. Economic complexity, environmental sustainability, and the environmental Kuznets curve;
  4. Economic complexity, inequality, and sustainable human development;
  5. Green Growth;
  6. Green Innovation.

Sustainability is an indexed peer-reviewed MDPI journal.

Papers should be submitted by 31 October 2020.

We look forward to your contributions.


  1. Rodrik, D. Where are we in the economics of industrial policies? Econ. China 2019, 14, 329–336.
  2. Mazzucato, M. The entrepreneurial state. 2011, 49, 131–142.
  3. Hidalgo, C.A.; Klinger, B.; Barabási, A.-L.; Hausmann, R. The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations. 2007, 317, 482–487.
  4. Rodrik, D. Green industrial policy. Rev. Econ. Policy 2014, 30, 469–491.
  5. Mazzucato, M. The green entrepreneurial state. In The Politics of Green Transformations. Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2015, 152–170.
  6. Nyström, M.; Jouffray, J.-B.; Norström, A.V.; Crona, B.; Jørgensen, P.S.; Carpenter, S.R.; Bodin, Ö.; Galaz, V.; Folke, C. Anatomy and resilience of the global production ecosystem. 2019, 575, 98–108.
  7. Hartmann, D.; Guevara, M.R.; Jara-Figueroa, C.; Aristarán, M.; Hidalgo, C.A. Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions, and Income Inequality. World Dev. 2017, 93, 75–93.
  8. A European Green Deal. European Commission—European Commission. Available online: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  9. Hidalgo, C.A.; Hausmann, R. The building blocks of economic complexity. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2009, 106, 10570–10575.
  10. Hausmann, R.; Hidalgo, C.A.; Bustos, S.; Coscia, M.; Simoes, A.; Yildirim, M. The Atlas of Economic Complexity. MIT Pres: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2014.
  11. Dai, H.; Xie, X.; Xie, Y.; Liu, J.; Masui, T. Green growth: The economic impacts of large-scale renewable energy development in China. Energy 2016, 162, 435–449.
  12. Davis, S.J.; Lewis, N.S.; Shaner, M.; Aggarwal, S.; Arent, D.; Azevedo, I.L.; Benson, S.M.; Bradley, T.H.; Brouwer, J.; Chiang, Y.-M.; et al. Net-zero emissions energy systems. 2018, 360, eaas9793.
  13. Zhang, D.; Rong, Z.; Ji, Q. Green innovation and firm performance: Evidence from listed companies in China. Conserv. Recycl. 2019, 144, 48–55.
  14. Hidalgo, C.A.; Balland, P.-A.; Boschma, R.; Delgado, M.; Feldman, M.; Frenken, K.; Glaeser, E.; He, C.; Kogler, D.F.; Morrison, A.; et al. The Principle of Relatedness. In 12th Chaotic Modeling and Simulation International Conference; Springer Science and Business Media LLC: Berlin, Germany, 2018; pp. 451–457.
  15. Hamwey, R.; Pacini, H.; Assunção, L. Mapping Green Product Spaces of Nations. Environ. Dev. 2013, 22, 155–168.
  16. Fraccascia, L.; Giannoccaro, I.; Albino, V. Green product development: What does the country product space imply? Clean. Prod. 2018, 170, 1076–1088.
  17. Huberty, M.; Zachmann, G. Green exports and the global product space: Prospects for EU industrial policy 2011. Available online: https://www.bruegel.org/2011/05/green-exports-and-the-global-product-space-prospects-for-eu-industrial-policy/ (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  18. Dordmond, G.; De Oliveira, H.C.; Silva, I.R.; Swart, J. The complexity of green job creation: An analysis of green job development in Brazil. Dev. Sustain. 2020, 1–24. Available online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10668-020-00605-4 (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  19. Mealy, P.; Teytelboym, A.M. Economic Complexity and the Green Economy. 2017. Available online: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3111644 (accessed on 5 March 2020).
  20. Neagu, O.; Teodoru, M.C. The Relationship between Economic Complexity, Energy Consumption Structure and Greenhouse Gas Emission: Heterogeneous Panel Evidence from the EU Countries. 2019, 11, 497.
  21. Neagu, O. The Link between Economic Complexity and Carbon Emissions in the European Union Countries: A Model Based on the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) Approach. 2019, 11, 4753.
  22. Can, M.; Gozgor, G. The impact of economic complexity on carbon emissions: evidence from France. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2017, 24, 16364–16370.
  23. Swart, J.; Brinkmann, L. Economic Complexity and the Environment: Evidence from Brazil. In Proceedings of the International Business, Trade and Institutional Sustainability; Springer Science and Business Media LLC: Berlin, Germany, 2019; pp. 3–45.
  24. Ferraz, D.; Moralles, H.F.; Campoli, J.S.; De Oliveira, F.C.R.; Rebelatto, D.A.D.N. Economic Complexity and Human Development: DEA performance measurement in Asia and Latin America. Gestão Produção 2018, 25, 839–853.

Prof. César A. Hidalgo
Prof. María Semitiel-García
Dr. Philipp Aerni
Mr. Markus Schaefer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • economic complexity
  • sustainability
  • inequality
  • emissions
  • human development
  • ecology
  • green growth
  • green development
  • green innovation

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Complexity Measurement Engineering and Integration of Import Information to Economic Complexity Index (ECI)

Isa Cakir 1,*, Eugenio Paris 2, Benjamin Alexander Cakir 3

1   Center of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS) at the University of Zurich

2   Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland

3   Mathematics Student at the University of Zurich

Abstract: The concept of economic complexity aims to capture the productive capabilities of a national economy based on the combined inputs that determine the frontiers of what an economy can produce. The economic complexity index (ECI) tries to measure these productive capabilities indirectly by looking at the mix of products that countries export. In this sense, the ECI also reveals many aspects of a country's capacity to innovate and its long-term potential to improve competitiveness. Yet, we suggest to further explore the field of Complexity Engineering to render predictions on future sustainable economic growth derived from the ECI more accurate. Since the launch of the Atlas of Economic Complexity, there has been a noteworthy increase in the number of publications designed to challenge or further refine the ECI framework. Yet, so far, there have not been many attempts to work on the elaboration of probabilistic models that take into account the import mix as well and to what extent it contributes to the export mix from which the degree of economic complexity is currently derived. We propose a way to address this gap by developing an information matrix that takes into account the import mix and how it contributes directly or indirectly to the corresponding export mix and with it adds value to the existing export-based ECI. For that purpose, we will first embed the ECI framework in a stochastic counterpart and interpret the ECI in probabilistic terms. This will enable us to integrate additional value chain information in a modular and coherent manner.

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