Global production networks (GPN) research has given limited attention to lead firms’ competitive strategies in emerging project-based industries (PBIs). Informed by the industry life cycle approach, the authors develop a process-sensitive approach that unpacks the black-boxed notion of lead firms’ competitive capabilities development processes to address this gap. The approach is operationalized in the analysis of the evolutionary trajectories of Ørsted (Denmark) and Equinor (Norway) in the emerging offshore wind power industry. Analytically, the authors differentiate between lead firms’ pre-entry, entry, and post-entry scope-related and scale-related competitive capabilities development processes. They demonstrate how these processes are shaped by industry characteristics and co-evolve with broader industry developments and extra-firm dynamics. Through this novel perspective, the paper extends conventional wisdom on the role GPNs as facilitators of knowledge transfer and of local and regional capability formation and development. The authors argue that GPNs can also facilitate both knowledge transfer to and competitive capability formation by (lead) firms.