Research on knowledge-based economies and innovation tends to focus on the highest-ranked knowledge-advanced countries in the Global North and on high-growth countries in the Global South. In this article, we review the research on knowledge-based economies in the Global South and identify two important analytical shortcomings: the tendency to conflate upgrading with innovation and the tendency to focus on domestic factors. Moving beyond the familiar case studies, we explore the literature on pockets of knowledge-based industries in economies that are not dominantly knowledge-based. We then shift the focus from the private sector to explore the literature on state-led knowledge-based innovation, particularly welfare provisions and surveillance. We conclude by challenging the notion that innovation is simply the next step in industrial development and call for a more historically and geographically specific sociological approach to understanding innovation and knowledge-based industries, particularly in the Global South.