What explains the uneven competitiveness we find in global markets, where some firms are able to dominate? Obvious path dependency and ‘stickiness’ in markets persists, despite efforts by others with potentially greater comparative advantage. An evolutionary view of global market competitiveness provides the best answer. Timing determines fortunes. In order to take advantage of technological windows of opportunity, a co-evolutionary state-private sector partnership is required. Our study of the emergence of wireless manufacturing entrants suggests that success depends on the ability to adapt to changes in comparative advantage, markets, and technology. Globalisation therefore requires even more state intervention, albeit in more strategic ways, not less, and state intervention is at the heart of the success of national firms. The cyclical nature of global markets and technology advances offers currently unrecognised opportunities for late entrants.