Stage I of the Sampling Process: Selection of Cluster Organizations

The selection of COs (stage I of the sampling process) was performed with the logic of extreme case sampling, with a view to providing the largest possible variation and variability within the research area, in the

Stage 1

Figure 4.2 Stage 1: sampling process. Source: Authors’ own elaboration.

understanding that the regularities noticed in extreme cases (polar opposites) may also be present in the intermediate cases. The application of the above logic was meant to fulfill the principles of control over similarities and differences postulated by Glaser and Strauss - essential for the process of deriving categories (and their properties) and their generalized relationships, from which a substantive and formal theory would be generated (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).

The main criterion differentiating COs was the sector in which the COs (and their members) operated. In accordance with the above logic, two very different sectors were selected for the study: the dynamically developing ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sector, considered to be a part of the high-technology sector, and the much more developmentally mature metal sector, primarily represented by the medium-low technology sector. The differences between these sectors have been considered to be a factor which potentially determines the development of relationships between cluster partners. The dominant form of cooperation in the ICT sector was the joint execution of projects, based on numerous albeit, brief relationships made between entities. Cooperation in the metal sector primarily took place in the value chain, which meant it focused to a much higher degree on developing long-lasting cooperative relationships rooted in common experiences. The factor of geographical affiliation, which is of little significance in the ICT sector (in this sector, cooperation may even take the form of virtual project groups), forms the basis of the development of cooperation in the metal sector. The attempt to reduce physical distance between particular links in the value chain (because of the possibility of reducing logistical costs) leads to the concentration in a single location of entities representing the same or similar sectors of the economy comprising a network of diverse business relationships. The selection of both sectors for the aforementioned sector-specific differences was in principle intended to convey a broad range of attitudes and opinions reflecting the specific nature of each sector, with a view to highlighting the trajectory of the development of cooperative relationships in COs representing both sectors included in the study.

The remaining applied criteria of the selection of COs were rooted in their similarities. It was decided that the COs from the study should display a particular level of organizational maturity, which would allow for the emergence of diverse forms of cooperation. It was assumed that the level of maturity of COs (verifiable at the stage of sampling) may be reflected in the age of the CO from the moment of its inception (the authors focused on the longest operating COs, which were in operation for at least 5 years), measured in years, the size of the CO, measured in the number of their members (the authors preferred large COs with at least regional influence, with no fewer members than 20), and the scope of their activities (undertaking activities aimed at developing cooperation between members, as well as entities from outside the CO).

In order to broaden the research area, the authors decided to include four COs in the study, so that two COs represented each of the selected sectors of the economy. The authors also decided that should such a sample fail to achieve theoretical saturation, additional COs from both sectors would be introduced in the study. However, because the derived categories were considered to be sufficiently saturated, there was no need to extend the research to include additional COs from both sectors.3

The data analysis (analysis of reports from benchmarking research and cluster inventory, researching websites) has shown that at that time, there were 16 COs from the ICT sector and 8 from the metal sector in Poland. In the first instance, the authors considered COs with the status of a Key National Cluster (KNC), which is awarded to organizations with an essential significance for the national economy and high degree of international competitiveness (Holub-Iwan & Wielec, 2014). There were no contraindications to adopt the above criterion of sample selection - the status of a KNC may be awarded to COs with different origins, while the criteria adopted in the process of selecting Key National Clusters (and pertaining to critical mass, developmental and innovative potential, current and planned cooperation, the experience and potential of a coordinator) have harmonized with the criteria set in the research process at hand.

The authors determined that among the 16 COs with the status of a KNC, four entities represented the sectors considered in the study (three COs from the ICT sector and one from the metal sector, respectively). The authors approached two COs from the ICT sector that were at the same time the largest such COs in Poland: Mazovia Cluster ICT (MC ICT) and Interizon: Pomeranian Region ICT Cluster (Interizon). The coordinators of both COs agreed on their behalf to participate. The same request was made of the single CO with the status of a KNC from the metal sector. However, due to circumstances beyond the control of the parties involved, cooperation with the above CO proved to be impossible. For this reason, two other COs from the metal sector were invited to participate in the study - the largest and relatively longest-operating COs among those identified for this sector in Poland: Metal Working Eastern Cluster (MWEC) and Metal Cluster of Lubuskie Province (MCLP). The coordinators of both clusters agreed on their behalf to participate.

The COs included in the study were localized in different regions of Poland (it should be noted that the names of the COs in question refer to their regions of operation): Central Poland (the Mazovian Voivodeship - the MC ICT), Northern Poland (the Pomeranian Voivodeship - the Interizon), Western Poland (the Lubusz Voivodeship - the MCLP), and Eastern Poland (the Lublin Voivodeship - the MWEC) (Table 4.1).

The studied COs were formalized at a very similar time; the MC ICT (established in 2007) had the longest run; the MCLP (established in 2008) was the second; while the following two remaining COs were younger:

Cluster organization name



Creation date

Number of members




Metal Cluster of Lubuskie Province

Metal sector






Metal Working Eastern Cluster

Metal sector






Mazovia Cluster ICT








Interizon: Pomeranian Region ICT Cluster








Source: Authors’ own elaboration.

Interizon and MWEC, (both established in 2009). All four COs were created as a result of the large commitment of companies, which means they can be considered to be bottom-up (of which MCLP is one example) or mixed COs, the latter created with the participation of institutions from outside the realm of business (like MC ICT, Interizon, MWEC). The main initiators of the creation of both studied ICT COs were institutions from the R&D sector. The MC ICT was created thanks to the initiative of the Institute for Market, Consumption and Business Cycles Research (IBRKK- PIB), while the role of the coordinator was fulfilled by the Stowarzyszenie Rozwoju Spoleczno-Gospodarczego “Wiedza” [Association of Socio- Economic Development “Knowledge”]. The operations of the Interizon (functioning as a partnership) were initiated in the Faculty of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics of the Gdansk University of Technology by the employees of the WiComm Center of Excellence, who were looking for methods of combining science with business. On the basis of the activities of Gdansk University of Technology employees and its cooperation with companies, a CO has been established. Its formalization allowed cluster members to apply for external funds in order to develop their cooperation further. Initially, the Gdansk University of Technology itself fulfilled the role of the coordinator, but later, this function was transferred to the Interizon Foundation, which was established for this purpose. In the meantime, the name of the CO changed (the initial term “Interizon” was added thereto) in order to highlight the trajectory of its development - going beyond the region and opening itself up to cross-sector cooperation.

In turn, in the case of COs operating in the metal sector, the largest influence on their establishment was exerted by institutions from the nongovernmental sector. The creation of the MWEC (in the form of an association of companies) has been initiated by the Wojewodzki Klub Techniki i Racjonalizacji [Regional Club of Inventiveness and Technology] (the present coordinator), which centered the activities of companies from the metal sector engaged in the process of formalizing the CO. In turn, the operations of the MCLP began with the registration of the Lubuskie Metal Cluster Association, which fulfilled the role of the coordinator. The MCLP was initiated by metal companies associated in the Lubuskie Organization of Employers. Both in the case of MCLP and MWEC, some of the members have already met during work in production plants which fell in the aftermath of the political transformation processes in Poland after 1989. Many former employees of those plants decided to establish their own businesses, drawing on their prior knowledge, experience and network of contacts.

The studied COs have undertaken different activities aimed at both at the internal operations of the CO (such as the development of human resources, activities pertaining to the market, marketing, and innovation), as well as the exterior of the CO (supporting the education system, cooperation with the broadly understood environment). They all participated in the cluster benchmarking research: three COs (MK ICT, Interizon, and MCLP) in all three editions of the study (2010, 2012, 2014), and MWEC - in the last two (2012, 2014). Among the four studied COs, three had a formalized development strategy (MC ICT, Interizon, and MCLP).

In terms of their size, COs from the ICT sector were much larger than their counterparts from the metal sector: at the time of the study, the MC ICT (the largest of the studied clusters) comprised about 200 members, while Interizon - about 130. To compare: the MWEC comprised 78 members, while the smallest CO - the MCLP - 35. In all four COs, the vast majority of members were companies. The largest percentage of companies in the structure of the studied COs was present in MWEC (a total of 75 companies, which translates to over 96%). The second and third in this regard were two ICT COs: MC ICT (180 companies - about 90%) and Interizon (111 companies - about 85%), with MCLP taking the last place (26 companies - about 76%). In terms of size, small and medium sized enterprises dominated among the members of COs (in each of the four COs, the participation of SMEs exceeded 90%).

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