Theoretical Foundations of Clusters and Cluster Organizations

Chapter 2 presents the concept of cluster and cluster initiative (Cl) further on referred to as cluster organization (CO). In the context of the theoretical background and its practical implications, it is not only important to present these concepts, but also to scrutinize the differences between them. The first part of the chapter provides the main conclusions from the review of the subject literature, revealing the current state of knowledge of the prior as well as the contemporary theories on the establishment and development of industrial clusters. Next, the main idea of both the cluster and the CO is presented, including their definitions and basic attributes. The further considerations concern a systematic literature review carried out to assess the degree of dissemination of the concept of a cluster, a Cl and a CO. The second part addresses selected issues related to cluster cooperation, which strictly correspond to the research aspect of the book. The main focus is put on the constituent elements of COs and the relationships they establish, the main areas of cooperation and involvement as well as the dynamics of a cluster and a CO. The third part of chapter discusses the impact of clustering on competitiveness. The conclusions provided at the end of the chapter refer to the differences observed between the discussed concepts as well as (which is important for the further parts of the work) indicate the current research gap.

The Concept of a Cluster and a Cluster Organization

Theories on the Establishment and Development of Industrial Clusters

The concept of COs, which is the heart of the matter of the publication, originated from the idea of a cluster - a term introduced to the management literature by Porter. Despite the unquestionable popularity of clusters, it is essential to emphasize that the literature provides many other theories (the older as well as the latest ones) concerning the relations among entities and their impact on the economic growth and development (Feser, 1998). As Porter admits, the theories contributed to understanding of the influence of clusters on competition (Porter, 2008). Among many other concepts, there are the most distinctive ones, i.e. Marshallian industrial district (Marshall, 1890) and Italian industrial district (Руке et al., 1990; Becattini, 2002; Bellandi, 2002; Sforzi, 2002) as well as the theories of innovation and knowledge-based regional development (regions as knowledge and innovation hubs) (Martin, 2003) such as innovative milieu (Aydalot, 1986; Camagni, 1991; Maillat & Perrin, 1992; Maillat et al., 1993; Ratti et al., 1997; Maillat, 1998; Crevoisier & Camagni, 2000), learning region (Florida, 1995; Asheim, 1996; Morgan, 1997; Hudson, 1999), regional innovation system (Cooke et al., 1997; Cooke et al., 1998; Asheim & Isaksen, 1997; Braczyk et al., 1998; Cooke, 2001; Carlsson et al., 2002; Doloreux, 2002; Doloreux & Parto, 2005), innovation ecosystem (Adner, 2006; Adner & Kapoor, 2010, 2016; Autio & Thomas, 2014; Gobble, 2014) that arose from the business ecosystem concept (Moore, 1993; 1996; Iansiti & Levien, 2004). Because it would be futile to maintain that the literature offers only one universal term to refer to the whole group of the theories, a general term, i.e. industrial clusters, has been applied in the publication to refer to the earlier as well as the contemporary concepts. However, particular term has been applied to highlight the contemporary approaches, namely “new industrial districts”1 (which indicates a clear connotation with their previous parallels - the Marshallian industrial district).

The first conclusion based on the analysis of the above-mentioned concepts relates to the benefits arising from the location and functioning of economic entities in industrial clusters. The importance of location selection and regional grouping of cooperating and, at the same time, competing entities of leading and complementary industries are the topics emphasized in Marshall’s studies (1890). He highlighted industrial clusters composed of small and medium-size enterprises with a strong industry specialization. Explaining the reasons for the creation of such clusters, Marshall was the first scholar who drew attention to the existence of external benefits, i.e. the positive effects that result from the development of the entire industry and equal the internal benefits obtained by large enterprises. The aspects he found advantageous concerned the labor market with specialized skills (and thus lower transaction costs for the enterprises), an access to non-commercial input specific to a given industry (occurring in a greater diversity and at lower costs - economies of scale and scope) and the flow of knowledge. The last benefits namely the effect of the flow of knowledge in the districts and the special “industrial atmosphere” were particularly accentuated because he regarded them as important factors of production.

As far as the Italian economists (Руке et al., 1990; Brusco, 1990; Becattini, 2002; Bellandi, 2002; Sforzi, 2002) are concerned, they not only resurrected the Marshallian concept, but also reconstructed it in some way, going beyond the Marshallian external benefits mentioned above. The most important components of the industrial district concept (in its Italian variety) were the place (understood very broadly - as a “territorial community” formed from the network of relationships of entities grouped in a given territory), economic entities (cooperating with one another through phase-production processes), the labor market (its high flexibility and employee mobility), the aspect of knowledge (mainly the flow of tacit knowledge as a result of a frequent relocation of human resources in the district) and common norms and values (a coherent and a common system of values as a necessary element for the creation and development of the district as well as the sense of trust resulting from common norms, values as well as shared cooperation experiences).

The second conclusion that emerges while studying the phenomenon of industrial districts in the sense proposed by Marshall is the need for various sectors of the economy in a given territory based on logically related, cooperating and competing business entities that not only occupy different places in the value chain of the leading industry but also create additional chains indirectly related to the leading one and strongly affecting the effectiveness of the activities undertaken by the entities grouped in it. A similar approach is presented by Italian researchers. In their opinion, what is recognized as the strength of each district was and still is that fact that they are conglomerates of various industries represented by a large group of small enterprises anchored in a specific location. This factor enables the economic entities grouped in them to undertake various forms of cooperation. The local conditions established and maintained in the district must be conducive to the formation and development of phase-production processes implemented by means of cooperation of three categories of entities: final firms (offering final products for the local market and external markets), phase firms (whose activity is focused on one or several phases of the production process) and ancillary firms (representing industries not directly related to the leading industries in a given district, but supporting the key production process and supplementing the market offer with goods and/or services complementary to it, e.g. transport, finances). Apart from the factors mentioned above, it is also essential to value the cooperation within a district, which is based on the exchange of products made in particular phases.

The third conclusion, which mainly emerges from scrutinizing the contemporary concepts of “new industrial districts”, indicates the top recognition for knowledge and innovation - factors that strongly determine the specifics of the functioning of enterprises within a given grouping as well as act as driving forces of the regional development. Innovations are treated here as an interactive learning process that is socially and geographically embedded in a cultural and institutional context (Lundvall, 1992; Malmberg & Maskell, 1997; Maskell &

Malmberg, 1999). The innovativeness of enterprises that operate in a given region is largely determined by the local resources such as industrial traditions, a specialized labor market, a network of business partners and institutions supporting the innovation development, and intangible assets (such as rules, shared values, trust) embedded in dense networks of interactive and mutual relations (Braczyk et al., 1998, p. 452). In accordance with the modern concepts, this distinctive blend, creating the innovative environment, provides medium-size enterprises with certain external benefits (previously described by Marshall) connected with local learning processes, the flow of knowledge and an access to a common knowledge base within the community.

However, it is difficult to clearly indicate the differences among the described concepts. They are mostly visible in the terminology and the matter of attention. They all place “territory” at the center of their considerations and associate the idea of development with areas marked with “localized opportunities” (especially social and cultural capital) that facilitate an interactive knowledge acquisition. What serves as a condition for establishing interactions in an innovation process is primarily geographical proximity as well as a set of institutions and norms emerging from the cultural context and the local environment.

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