This paper gauges the forces and structures that shape economic transformation through an analysis of industrial polices in four European economies since the 2008 crisis: France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. We argue that differences across recent European industrial policies respond to variations in national historical and institutional legacies; the characteristics of productive structures and the capabilities of the state. Path-dependency shape views regarding the acceptable role of the state, although institutional legacies needs to be balanced against historical institutional consistency and the intensity of the crisis. The characteristics of industry in terms of size, specialization, and position in the global division of labour affect preferences for framework vs. sector-specific policies and the ambitiousness of goals. Finally, the state’s coordination capacity is essential to the design and efficient implementation of interrelated actions across multiple areas whereas financial capacity establishes commitment, signalspriorities, and determines the feasibility of forward-looking projects.