Special Issue 2017 ‘Clusters, Industrial Districts and Strategy’



Francisco Puig, Miguel González-Loureiro

Clusters, Industrial Districts and Strategy

This introductory paper opens the Special Issue on Clusters, Industrial Districts and Strategy, based on the debate and comments arisen during the 2016 Conference on Clustering. After some brief notes on the need and the intended scope from a multidisciplinary approach (Regional Science, Economic Geography, Sociology and Business Management), we argue why the knowledge of the context is increasingly relevant for competing successfully in the global marketplace, since context-firm’s strategy is a two-way relationship. Cooperative efforts in the forms of clusters, industrial districts or agglomerations can spontaneously arise from a dense population of firms belonging to multiple industries or to the same and related industries along with public actors, or they can be a deliberative, planned and managed effort, which will require the intervention of a governance mode. Whatever the choice is, the result is not always the same. Accordingly, and in light of the pervading differences found across literature and papers presented in this Special Issue, it seems plausible that clustering can be idiosyncratic to the location. Further efforts should be devoted to find contingent recipes for fostering competitiveness in light of the context and the firms collaborating. At the end, we introduce the nine papers of this Special Issue, while encourage scholars to continue this academic conversation.

Keywords: clustering; industrial cluster; industrial district; strategy; competitiveness
Dioni Elche, Ángela Martínez-Pérez, Pedro M. García-Villaverde

Inter-Organizational Relationships, Knowledge Strategy and Innovation in Clusters of Cultural Tourism

The paper aims to identify the knowledge strategy (KS) developed by the firms belonging to tourism cluster according to their inter-organizational relationships and hence to analyse the impact on innovation. The empirical study is conducted on a sample of 215 firms located in UNESCO World Heritage Cities in Spain (WHCS). The methodology is based on both factor analysis and conglomerates analysis. The findings show that firms with high levels of both bonding and bridging capital carry out activities of exploration and also exploration of knowledge through an ambidextrous strategy. On the contrary, firms with scarceness of links (low levels of bonding and bringing capital) perform few activities of knowledge exploration and exploitation. On the other hand, firms that have high levels of bonding or bridging capital generally implement a punctuated equilibrium strategy. Finally, we prove that firms with an ambidexterity KS exhibit better innovation performance.

Keywords: Inter-organizational relationships; knowledge strategy; ambidexterity; innovation; cluster
Francesc Xavier Molina-Morales, Luís Martínez-Cháfer, David Valiente-Bordanova

Disruptive Technological Innovations as New Opportunities for Mature Industrial Clusters. The Case of Digital Printing Innovation in the Spanish Ceramic Tile Cluster

Over the last few decades, many studies have focused on the role that incremental innovations play in cluster contexts. However, few authors have analysed the impact of disruptive innovations on these entities. The present research analyses the emergence, development and dissemination of a disruptive technological innovation in an industrial cluster. In particular, we study the case of the introduction of inkjet printing technology in the Spanish ceramic cluster as a paradigm of how a disruptive innovation can impact the industry’s value chain. This technological change ended up revolutionizing what was considered a mature and stable sector. In short, we will describe how a disruptive technological innovation is capable of renewing the life cycle of a cluster favouring the recovery of competitiveness and, even, creating new opportunities for diversification.

Keywords: disruptive technological innovation; industrial cluster; digital printing; inkjet technology; ceramic tile industry
Ángel Belzunegui Eraso, Miguel Ángel Miralles Amorós, M.ª Teresa Pastor Gosálbez

The Role of Institutional and Territorial Factors in Innovation: the Case of the Spanish Footwear Components Industry

The industrial fabric of the province of Alicante has long been made up of various types of agglomerations of companies, including local productive systems, industrial districts and clusters. These enterprise systems are currently facing challenges to their competitiveness brought about by global markets and transformations in technology and production. In this paper we analyze the transformation processes introduced by businesses in the footwear components industry and the importance of the Regional Innovation System in the recent economic context. We demonstrate how companies in the footwear sector have sought various alternatives, especially innovation strategies, internationalization, diversification towards different productive sectors, and specialization in different market segments. We also analyze the role of the Regional Innovation System of the Valencian Community (Spain) (e.g. the Chamber of Commerce, technological institutes, universities and innovation policies) in these transformation processes.

Keywords: innovation; diversification; regional innovation system; industrial district
Orietha E. Rodríguez-Victoria, Miguel González-Loureiro, Francisco Puig

Economic Competitiveness: Effects of Clustering, Innovation Strategy and the Moderating Role of Location in the Colombian Hotel Industry

Clustering in service industries has scarcely been investigated, while there is huge evidence of a positive impact on innovation and competitiveness in the case of manufacturing industries. We address this by exploring the potential moderator effect that location externalities have on the triangular relationship between clustering, innovation and competitiveness. In this empirical study of 131 hotels located nationwide in the emerging destination of Colombia, we found a negative moderated mediation effect. The impact on competitiveness is higher when the location holds low levels of resources. We uncovered and discuss one of the reasons for explaining the heterogeneous impact of clustering on service firms.

Keywords: industrial cluster; organizational innovation; hotel industry; colombia; competitiveness
E. Claver-Cortés, B. Marco-Lajara, E. Manresa-Marhuenda, F. García-Lillo, P. Seva-Larrosa

Location Decisions and Agglomeration Economies: Domestic and Foreign Companies

The international expansion of multinational enterprises (MNEs) is one of the topics most frequently discussed amongst international business scholars. In particular, decisions regarding firm location and its effects on performance have received great attention. The results obtained in the study about this relationship are inconclusive, though, since a large number of studies have been conducted from very different perspectives. One of these perspectives suggests that the location in agglomerations allows MNEs to benefit from potential knowledge spillovers encouraging innovation and local adaptation. However, this co-location increases the risk of imitation by domestic companies as well. Furthermore, the acquisition by each firm of the external knowledge generated by means of concentration depends on its internal capabilities, and especially on its absorptive capacity. The aim sought with this work consists in analyzing the location decisions adopted by MNEs in an attempt to clarify the following issues: Are MNEs more likely to be established in agglomerations? Which companies benefit the most from geographical proximity in terms of innovation, domestic or foreign ones? What is the role of absorptive capacity? The results obtained in the analysis, carried out with a sample of firms and using data from a survey conducted in 2013 by PITEC, reveal the differences between foreign and local companies when it comes to using external knowledge.

Keywords: location choice; multinational enterprise; innovation; agglomeration; knowledge; absorptive capacity
Marco Bettiol, Chiara Burlina, Maria Chiarvesio, Eleonora Di Maria

From Delocalisation to Backshoring? Evidence from Italian Industrial Districts

 In recent decades, industrial districts (ID) have experienced intense delocalisation to low-cost countries, with implications for IDs’ internal structure. Recent studies, however, highlight the advantages of relocalising manufacturing in home countries. This paper investigates ID firms’ production-location strategies and backshoring decisions. The results from a survey of 259 firms in eight Italian IDs show that firms that delocalise production do not change their strategies over time and make limited recourse to backshoring. ID production is still important to guarantee product quality and access to specialised know-how.

Keywords: delocalisation; backshoring; industrial districts; manufacturing, Italy
Angela da Rocha, Beatriz Kury, Rodrigo Tomassini, Luciana Velloso

Strategic Responses to Environmental Turbulence: A Study of Four Brazilian Exporting Clusters

This paper investigates strategic responses to the global economic crisis that began in 2008, combined with the appreciation of the local currency and the intensification of Asian competition, of four Brazilian clusters comprised of producers and exporters of traditional manufactured products, with different levels of export intensity (footwear, furniture, wines and beachwear). The data were obtained from personal interviews with various actors (entrepreneurs, industry experts, government agents and members of local associations) and a wide range of secondary sources. The clusters present different responses depending on their degree of dependence on external markets, the possibility of redirecting production to domestic markets and level of cooperation.

Keywords: cluster; internationalization; crisis; path dependence
Aihie Osarenkhoe, Daniella Fjellström

Clusters’ Vital Role in Promoting International Competitive Advantage - Towards an Explanatory Model of Regional Growth

This work responds to calls to expand the study of inter-firm relationships beyond the narrow dyadic relationship focus and sole concentration on conceptualizing collaborations as firms’ strategic intent to implement mechanistic growth strategy. The objective is to map the salient features of existing clusters and how firms perceive the benefits of clusters by asking: How are the collaborative networks of private and public partnerships organized to enhance the competitiveness of all the stakeholders in a cluster? And how do these actors perceive the usefulness of clustering? The theoretical lens builds on viewing cluster initiatives as an interactive learning process and something that occurs in the interaction between actors as competitiveness is born through reshuffling resources both inside and outside of the firm, and takes into account value creation. The methodology draws on focus groups and surveys conducted in Swedish clusters. The findings show the perceived benefits of cluster initiatives to be networking, dialogue and experience exchange. The implications are that the relationships firms form in a cluster constitute critical avenues for acquiring resources and knowledge to enhance competitiveness, and bridges to other clusters in other countries. An explanatory model of clusters and regional competitiveness that emerged from our findings is presented.

Keywords: clusters; networking; international competitiveness; strategic network; open innovation
Barbara Jankowska, Marta Götz, Cezary Główka

Intra-Cluster Cooperation Enhancing SMEs’ Competitiveness - The Role of Cluster Organisations in Poland

The determinants of SMEs’ competitiveness and, in particular, the constraints faced by SMEs, as well as the implications of the barriers for a firm’s growth have been investigated by a great number of researchers. Despite the popularity of the studies focused on SMEs competitiveness this topic is not losing its relevance, since SMEs are backbone of national economies. The issue is of even greater importance for post-transition economies. In this paper, we argue that intracluster cooperation, which should epitomise the genuine and fully fledged cluster, provides cluster firms, in particular SMEs, with advantages and thus can assist SMEs in upgrading their competitiveness. Special role play in this respect also dedicated cluster organisations. The conceptual part of the paper is accompanied by empirical considerations. Best practices from selected Polish clusters dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises are presented

Keywords: cluster; cooperation; competitiveness; cluster organisation; SME; Poland