The New Geography of Innovation: Clusters, Competitiveness and Theory

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The Portuguese clusters with this recognition and studied here, and their area of activity, are presented in Table Identification of the clusters studied.. Source : Elaboration based on information available online on In carrying out research it is necessary to use techniques and instruments to gather and obtain information. According to Deshaies , the construction of data-gathering instruments is considered very important in research work, since on it depends the collection of pertinent information, considering the subject of study..

Qualitative research does not try to numerate or measure events. Its aim is to obtain descriptive data, through the researcher's direct and interactive contact with the situation studied. The researcher tries to understand the phenomenon, from the perspective of the participants in the situation studied, and from this, interpret the phenomena studied Patton, ; Yin, According to Yin , possible sources of evidence for use in a case study are: a interviews, b observations, c documents and records, d physical artifacts and e surveys.

These sources allow a great amount of information to be collected in great detail and in-depth analysis, when dealing with one, or a small number of case studies..

In this exploratory study, besides documentary analysis e. According to Patton , semi-structured interviews have the advantage of the certainty of obtaining data that is comparable among the various subjects.. The interviews were held in June and July and lasted 55 min on average. The interviews were guided by open questions, and answered in a free and moderately directed way.

The script was elaborated based on the study's aim and was in two parts: brief characterization of the respondent gender, age and academic qualifications , the cluster location, sector of operation and number of members and a number of questions associated with inter-clustering and knowledge networks.. Characterization of interviewees.. Analysis of the information revealed that the executive directors are aged between 40 and All are male, except for the director of Inovcluster Case 3 , the only woman to occupy this post and the youngest of the interviewees.

According to Bertaux, quoted by Lalanda , the researcher should not only focus on the content of one interview, but focus on various types of messages or reports from several interviews. In this way, the intention was to improve understanding of the communication resulting from the interview.. The purpose of this documentary analysis was data triangulation Blaikie, , meaning greater external validity of the results Yin, ; Eisenhardt, This involved crossing information from the interviews with secondary sources.

Lastly, a theoretical meaning third order interpretation was attributed to complete the case evidence Neuman, Finally, the results obtained were treated, the information it was intended to obtain being highlighted, so as to develop interpretations, conclusions, limitations and expectations regarding the topic studied.. With this type of qualitative and exploratory research, the aim was to understand the relationship between Gold Label clusters and whether inter-clustering is, or could come to be, a competitive advantage at the regional and national level and have an impact on the internal and external economy..

Description of the six cases is organized based on the objectives of each cluster, and the network functioning, restrictions, benefits and potential of inter-clustering, themes identified in the literature review.

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Finally, based on the empirical evidence found from the six case studies, a comparative analysis was made. This type of procedure aimed for better understanding of the results obtained.. Characterization of the clusters.. All the clusters come under the legal status of non-profit-making private associations and all emerged between and , following approval of the legal ruling foreseeing the formation of clusters in Portugal.

Among the cases studied, it is of note that three carry out activities associated with production technology plastic molds — Case 1; developing products for innovative industries — Case 4; sustainable construction — Case 5 , information, communication and electronics Case 2 , one with activity associated with the agro-industrial sector Case 3 and the other with agro-food Case 6. Also regarding characterization of the clusters, it is noted that four are situated in the central region of the country and the other two in the north.

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All the clusters operate in distinct sectors of activity, but with a potential transversal effect in their activity. PT Case 2 the smallest, with activity in the agro-industry and information, communication and electronic technology sectors, respectively..


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This perception is reflected in the conclusion by Morrison and Rabellotti , as in the context of industrial clusters, relationships and informal collaboration play a crucial role in knowledge-sharing.. This statement alone shows the importance of the actors involved in clusters..

Clusters as Innovation Engines: The Accelerating Strengths of Proximity

When cluster managers were asked how clusters can form networks for managing learning, the answers obtained are associated with concepts like cooperation, strategy, sharing, complementarity, competitiveness, opportunities and extending the value chain. In this way, it will be possible to cooperate with clusters in mutually competitive areas, aiming to increase the effective scale or with complementary clusters where it is necessary to achieve common goals. As the cases studied are considered innovative, the importance of shared learning cooperation is noted, as mentioned by Balestrine and Verschoore in relation to cooperation networks..

Also regarding inter-sector cooperation as a key to success and stimulating new projects, CS Case 3 gives some examples of initiatives to follow up, such as: organization of joint events, participation in common projects, determining the needs of a given sector where the possible response lies in another sector, sharing sector trends so as to direct and affect innovation in a complementary sector.

She also emphasizes the importance of the inter-cluster communication process, indicating that for effective cooperation and achievement of win-win results, it is essential to draw up a joint communication strategy. Indeed, the periodic meeting of clusters is an opportunity to exchange experiences, but also to undertake joint initiatives of different kinds.

From the above, it seems evident that the existence of effective and efficient cooperation can provide the firms involved with a competitive advantage, as mentioned by Porter Regarding the principal limitations of inter-clustering, the interviewees C1—C6 mention the lack of motivation and mutual commitment, the non-existence of an environment of trust, respect and transparency, the lack of tools and policies for operational management of inter-clustering, the diversity of functions they take on and the lack of training in relational capital.

Furthermore, cooperation in clusters is closely linked to the characteristics of their actors e. As for the benefits of inter-cluster networks, the managers of the clusters studied mentioned additional innovative opportunities and research projects, the sharing of competences and the synergetic effect obtained at the micro and macro level. This question is closely related to knowledge networks and their functioning, as stated by Morrison and Rabellotti This means that within the network there can be competition between the actors involved, and simultaneously cooperation e.

Although cluster networks are understood to contribute to regional development Sohn, , the size of the network is not relevant, as what matters is the corporate links formed between their actors and their interactions Molina-Morales et al. Summarizing, the six managers cases 1 to 6 do not consider cluster size to be significant for its success and that of its cooperation network.. This is corroborated by Quandt when stating that positive externalities occur associated with the proximity between firms, these being potentialized by the agglomeration — clusters — and how interactions and inter-dependences contribute to spreading information and knowledge.

The results achieved and recognized by the firms functioning in a network and inserted in clusters demonstrate the bonus obtained by operating in a cluster. From a network perspective, this study aimed to understand the relationship between clusters and how this type of network is seen as a mechanism for the share of knowledge and learning. To this end, we analyzed six types of cluster positioned in different fields and located in the same or a nearby territory..

Therefore, responding to the research questions defined, it is concluded that this process has a crucial role in inter-clustering Question 1 , as it allows the spread of knowledge and learning, and benefiting from synergies through establishing informal cooperation networks.. Furthermore, a competitive advantage is no longer only understood as a tangible asset, which means that the intangible nature of resources is a vehicle to attain a competitive position in the market, in the context of cluster location regional level and also in terms of the actors, as individuals, by absorbing new and differentiating competences person-based in beneficial relationships Question 2.

Finally, inter-clustering promotes regional development, as it is a way to attract local investment and involve people with an open, entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, aspects that are important for regional competitiveness and promote positive externalities not only at the regional level, but also nationally and internationally, aspects mentioned by the different clusters studied Question 3. Moreover, we identify several categories of inter-clustering challenges: 1 inter-clustering as the sharing of knowledge and learning, 2 restrictions and benefits of inter-clustering and 3 size of the inter-cluster network and future expectations..

This study also presents some implications for theory and practice in this area. It applied the inter-organizational network perspective to the study of clusters and inter-cluster linkages. Our findings add to our limited knowledge of the effectiveness of inter-clustering cooperation.

The New Geography of Innovation: Clusters, Competitiveness and Theory | Emerald Insight

In addition, while inter-clustering corresponds to a specific case of inter-organizational relations, its competitiveness and regional development has rarely been investigated. Here, we examine inter-cluster relationships from the person-based perspective and in line with the literature on inter-organizational relations.

Inter-clustering linkages offer a new framework in which to analyze knowledge and learning practices. We believe it constitutes an interesting line of research, especially when we look into knowledge sources and management, as well as learning networks. The exploratory character of our research enabled us to comprehend the particular effects that certain factors exert on inter-clustering networks. Nevertheless, there is still the need for further analysis to refine and adapt the outcomes of our multiple case studies..

At the managerial level, one of our contributions is to help cluster facilitators to know when it is productive to cooperate and how to operate in practice, taking existing challenges into account.

In this case, there still seems to be a need for government policy on clustering, particularly regarding the definition of effective support instruments which are stable over time and will allow better definition and strategic operation of inter-clustering. This requires more effective commitment by those involved, both public and private bodies. In addition, relational capital such as personal linkages and contacts is extremely important and mutual trust and commitments are an overruling condition for successful inter-cluster cooperation.

Also recommended are public policies to encourage the aggregation and share of knowledge arising from the greater intensity of inter-cluster relations. The study has certain limitations, firstly, as only Portuguese clusters were studied. This naturally led us to investigate clusters organized according to national and regional public policies.

Consequently, our research could benefit from a study of relations between Portuguese and foreign clusters within the same domain in order to neutralize the effects of public intervention at the national or regional level..

- The New Geography Of Innovation: Clusters, Competitiveness And Theory

Proposals for future research could include exploring the connection between cluster network functioning and knowledge-sharing and learning management between clusters. Broadening the study of nationally recognized inter-clustering and carrying out a study according to area or sector of activity could be another aspect to explore in the future..

Innovation clusters

The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments that contributed to the development of this paper. She received her master in Management and Conservation in Nature from University of the Azores in Currently, she is a Ph. Her research focuses on cooperation, SMEs and family businesses, human resources and governance..

His research focuses on strategic alliances, business networks, innovation and business creation. ISSN: X. Inter-clustering as a network of knowledge and learning: Multiple case studies. Download PDF.