The literature on catch-up cycles has not yet systematically conceptualized how catch-up dynamics differ between the various industries that are emerging in the green techno-economic paradigm. We address this gap by connecting catch-up cycle theory with an industry typology from global innovation systems (GISs) literature, which distinguishes four generic industry types with footloose, spatially sticky, market-, and production-anchored innovation system characteristics. Catch-up patterns in early industry lifecycle stages are expected to systematically differ between these four industry types. This assumption is explored based on a comparative case study of the solar photovoltaics, wind power, solar water heaters, and membrane bioreactors industries, each of which exemplifies one of the four generic GIS configurations. We find that the speed and disruptiveness of early leadership changes differ significantly between the four industries, and that the effectiveness of capability upgrading strategies and catching-up policies are contingent on the innovation and valuation characteristics of each industry's underlying GIS type.