The Impact of Clusters and Cluster Organizations on Competitiveness
The specific nature of clusters discussed earlier and their formalized counterparts (COs) have created a convenient basis for considering the importance of these socio-economic constructs for the competitiveness of their constituent elements. It is worth recalling here that COs are not one-dimensional creations - realizing their potential results from joining in one place and specific time the needs and opportunities offered by the entities anchored in different dimensions of the reality. Although the number and the specific character of these dimensions vary, the most common combination of component dimensions of COs is the dimension of the economy (represented by the enterprises), policies (central authorities-legislators), science (universities, scientific institutes) and the place (the region) where they carry out their activities.
Operating within a CO has a positive impact on each of its component dimensions, yet due to the subject of this publication and the subject of the research the attention is focused on the economic dimension and thus the effects that participation in a CO has on the competitiveness of the component enterprises.
Since scholars have yet to examine how the operation of a CO can affect the competitiveness of economic entities operating within it and their scope of research have been limited only to considerations and analysis on the consequences of cooperation undertaken within clusters, the conclusions presented in this part are based on cluster research and other forms of business cooperation, and not specifically on COs. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the main objectives and the specific nature of cluster operations are very similar to the motivation that guides COs, it can be cautiously assumed that the main consequences of cluster operations identified during the literature analysis as well as their impact on the competitiveness of enterprises will also be characterized by a significant degree of similarity. It is also worth noting that the issue of expanding the economic capital of cluster companies - the most obvious issue concerning the very activity within the cluster, and at the same time the most difficult one in this context, has not been deliberately raised.
The activity of clusters and COs entails considerable effects that are essential for the level of competitiveness of the component enterprises. Individual and minor consequences of cooperation (and also competitiveness) among cluster companies have been successfully combined into broader theoretical categories, which in turn have proved to be (to a large extent) compatible with the growing concept of “closeness”. It should be emphasized that the concept of proximity, as opposed to, for example, ‘neighborhood’, has never been limited to space proximity (Cooke, 2006), but concerns a wide range of factors, which common for the component entities, make them share certain events and undertakings.
The development of the concept of “proximity” as well as its dissemination among researchers and practitioners was largely influenced by the French proximity school (A. Torre, A. Rallet, J.P. Gilly, Y. Lung et al.), according to which the proximity of the characteristics of involved actors is the key element in the process of coordinating their economically-oriented activities (it facilitates knowledge transfer, improves mechanisms of strategic information flow, has a positive effect on conflict resolution) (Boschma et ah, 2014). The most popular division of proximity found in the literature is proposed by Boschma.9 According to his approach, geographical, cognitive, social, organizational and institutional proximity can be distinguished. The very proximity is recognized as a factor significantly improving the processes of cooperation among entities (Petruzzelli et ah, 2009) as well as conducive for developing innovation and reducing uncertainty in relations (Boschma, 2005a; Paci et ah, 2014).
The features mentioned above are sufficient to approximate the thematic dimension of the distinguished scopes of activity of cluster enterprises, whose development translates into improvement of their competitive position. The areas in which cluster enterprises gain the greatest positive stimulus from the point of view of their competitive growth are as follows:
- • facilitation in creating knowledge and improving the mechanisms of its transfer (including learning);
- • increased mutual trust and improved communication among the entities, and thus reduced uncertainty connected with the risk of opportunistic behavior;
- • increased potential of the region in which the CO operates (and the opportunity to benefit from the improved business conditions).