This paper asks what insights the literature provides on divergence versus convergence of innovation paths in Europe and Asia. It contrasts the abundant literature on determinants of innovation paths with the scarcity of studies that are explicitly comparative across countries or continents. Implicit conclusions however emerge from several lines of work including evolutionary perspectives which stress differences in national conditions, and other perspectives which stress latecomer and globalisation effects. This paper distils and draws together the main conclusions on why innovation paths can be expected to diverge or converge. Its contribution lies in spelling out and bringing together implicit and explicit insights from a wide range of literatures. It also provides an analytical backdrop for some of the other papers in this special issue of Science and Public Policy which provide comparative empirical analyses of low carbon innovation paths.