Contextual Background and Motivation

The scientific literature on the origin and evolution of the industrial district concept used by Marshall and contemporary industrial regions, including Porter’s clusters, is abundant and multi-threaded. Most publications in scientific literature refer to clusters viewed in geographical or economic categories, yet only a few of them address clusters as organizations. A cluster, like other concepts based on knowledge and innovation, is a subject of empirical analysis and research in economic geography. The phenomenon of new industrial districts is also studied within regional science, which emphasizes on the role of geographic proximity and the innovative milieu. The relations between the location and the competitive advantage were studied by the representatives of classical economics - A. Smith and neoclassical economics - A. Marshall. The discussion concerning the specific issue is continued on the basis of agglomeration theory, transaction cost theory, the theory of flexible specialization, institutional and evolutionary economics, as well as the network approach.

Contrary to the concept of a cluster, a cluster organization (CO) (which is the focus of this publication) has been scarcely explored so far. Although those two concepts exist as an abstract notion, the boundaries of COs are precisely defined. Acting in COs, the entities are aware of being elements of a bigger, formally constituted structure (which they have joined purposefully) and act actively in order to achieve some collective or individual objectives (aimed at developing their mother organizations or the ones set entirely individually). Understanding COs as organizations which function at a higher level of aggregation is extremely valuable when viewed from the perspective of rhe management sciences; it implies that collective entities assume an intentional and engaged approach towards their functioning in the structure of a higher level. At the same time, it also imposes the necessity to provide management to such a complex organization. Managing a CO means coordinating the actions undertaken by the collective entities (the institutional members) and individuals (who are employed in the organizations as members of the CO and who are engaged in activities undertaken within such an organization). The aspect of organizing teamwork in order to achieve certain objectives is the key factor with regard to the specific nature of COs.

To date, the scientific literature has not provided any models of developing cooperation in COs - there are no publications that would be characterized by a dynamic and holistic approach to cooperation in COs. Therefore, there is a huge cognitive and research gap, especially since dynamic development of COs is observed throughout the world, especially in Europe and Asia, as a part of a cluster-based policy. In Europe, an effective cluster policy was perceived as an important tool in achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy 2000-2010. The idea of supporting cluster development is also devised in the current EU strategy “Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”. In many COs, especially those operating in countries where cluster policy is developing (such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, etc.), no mechanisms have been developed to encourage enterprises to enter any cooperation, which can result in suspension or ultimate termination of some particular COs.

The Research Problem and Aim of the Book

The arguments mentioned above - on the one hand, insufficient identification and scarce recognition of the problems related to the development of cooperation in COs in scientific literature, and on the other hand, popularity but also deficiency of many COs has become the starting point for designing empirical research, in which the main research problem is the development of cooperative relationships in COs. The authors intend to answer the following research question: “What are the stages of the development of cooperative relationships (level of cooperation) in CO?” In the presented publication, the notion of cooperative relationships refers to the relations established by COs to cooperate with one another. Since such cooperation may involve a highly diverse set of activities (ranging from the simplest to the most advanced ones), the concept of a cooperation level acts as an equal notion, directly referring to the gradual character of the analyzed phenomenon. While designing the research, it was assumed that the identification of the factors that affect the origin and development of cooperative relationships in COs would improve the knowledge of this field (in terms of its theoretical aspect) and appear useful to the discussed organizations to achieve higher levels of their development (when considering the practical aspect).

The main aim of the research was to identify the levels of advancement of cooperation among clusters to create a theoretical concept covering the trajectory of the development of cooperative relationships in COs. At such an early stage of development, it seemed more reasonable to explore the areas of the discussed problem and, on this basis, generate new theories rather than to assess the existing ones. It should be noted that the authors are cautious in using the term “theory”, instead the term “theoretical concept” is used to describe the research findings, assuming that only the confirmation of the universality of the observed relations in the next studies (in parallel with overcoming the existing limitations) will provide the basis for recognizing the concepts as a full-fledged scientific theory. The aforementioned aim of the study is based on three contexts: exploration, description and explanation. The exploration context is emphasized by the inductive-abductive procedure applied in the research carried out with the use of methodological recommendations of the grounded theory. The description context applies in defining certain characteristics describing the phenomenon of cooperation among selected COs. The explanation context is directly related to the identification and understanding of factors which predominantly affect the formation and development of the intra-cluster cooperation.

The proposed book may be claimed as novelty, significantly contributing to the present state of knowledge on industrial cluster - it is a perfectly balanced, exhaustive study of collaboration development in COs, with special emphasis put on these countries where cluster policy is developing. An inductive character of the created concept is also the special feature of the book. The methodology of grounded theory applied in the book allowed for a better understanding of the specific nature of cooperation within COs.

On the theoretical level, the identification of the development trajectory of cooperative relationships in COs expands the current state of knowledge in this regard and sheds new light on the development of cluster cooperation. On the practical level, in turn, it can help COs achieve higher levels of development. In order for a given CO to become a fully functional structure, it is necessary - on the one hand - for its components to be willing to be constituted in such a form, and on the other hand - for them to have knowledge about the possibility of establishing and developing cooperation relations with other entities.

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