Level II "Allocation and Integration at the Process Level"

The moment when a certain part of the entities within the studied organizations were able to establish relatively constant relations, it became possible to raise the degree of cluster cooperation to a higher level. In accordance with the created concept, this higher level of cooperation in cluster members is, “Allocation and integration at the process level”. Only at this level did actions appear which are customarily tied to establishing cooperation among a specific number of engaged entities. The first part of the name of level II (i.e. “allocation”) strictly corresponds with the general objective set before COs at the level of development under consideration, that is, facilitating access to the increased pool of resources for cluster members (see Tab. 5.3, quotations 1-2).

Thanks to the contacts made at the previous level of cooperation, the entities comprising the studied COs were able to ascertain their mutual needs and possibilities, which - following the establishment of even a minimum degree of trust - they learned to fulfill and use to their advantage. Cluster members entered a stage consisting of converting the collected resources from the area of social capital (that is, their established relations) into other kinds of resources. This conversion involved the exchange of specific kinds of resources, including sales transactions (or the exchange of financial resources for other resources obtained by a given entity). No entity operating in a market space has access to an unlimited resource pool, which creates space for cooperation rooted in obtaining (and, by analogy, providing access to) resources. The constant search for the possibility of supplementing one’s resources is a characteristic feature of all economic entities. The relations made in COs have allowed the cluster members to access the resources of their

General objectives and cooperation markers

Selected quotations

Facilitating access to the increased pool of resources, including information

1 “The exchange of resources - is very, very much present within human capital. We have a foundation that is tasked with personnel training, where this phenomenon is present to a large degree. Mutual teaching about project management, mutual teaching of programming languages [...] training sessions, mutual workshops, we had numerous such sessions where people would teach one another”. (Dl)

2 “In order to supplement and broaden my possibilities, I intensively learned about the local market, which in part was made possible thanks to the cluster. Then, we know in detail which companies have access to which machinery. We can make use of this knowledge because we were able to get to know one another”. (A6)

Increasing the quality of products and services and/or reducing business costs

3 “This is the metal sector. We buy large quantities of steel and other metallurgical materials, which means we can make purchases together. The more you buy, the better the price. Each of us wants the lowest prices for our companies”. (B2)

4 “Within a cluster, it would be easier to set certain standards and implement them in similar companies. A common initiative, which would bring benefits to all parties involved. After all, higher quality translates to more orders for the company”. (B4)

Activities (collective)

5 “The cluster was created to step up cooperation between companies from the industry, with which have been de facto cooperating in the past. In order to within - let’s say - allow companies to cooperate, complementing each other’s resources, skills, and capacities”. (Bl)

6 “Companies from the cluster cooperate among themselves, working out details for the benefit of other companies”. (B3)

Goals (individual)

7 “We wanted to establish a prototyping

workshop within the cluster, in which we would create and research prototypes. For companies which not only produce on the basis of received documentation, but also develop their own products - they must research their prototypes regardless, in order to obtain authorizations. Companies would be able to use the workshop to further their own goals”. (A7)

General objectives and cooperation markers

Selected quotations

8 “Groups are formed spontaneously. They are initiated by people. On Tuesday, we will initiate a new topic area. There is an individual who has specific Knowledge and would like to gather several companies interested in the topic. He’d like to achieve his goal, but his egoism may prove to be beneficial to others”. (C2)

Interests (individual)

9 “We create large task groups with the aim of sharing knowledge, but this usually ends up like this: fine, I’ll join the group, but I’d like you to acquire EU funds for us. With such funds, I’ll be able to produce something by myself”. (D3)

10 “Actually, when we were in the beginning or in the middle of the process of selecting a company offering calibration services, each of the companies received three offers from three different companies, which were more favorable than in the past. However, ultimately a single calibration company wasn’t selected, because it turned out that the cluster consists of companies with such a broad profile, that no of the bidding companies were able to service all companies at once”. (D6)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

counterparts, freeing them from the necessity of creating and maintaining such resources on their own.

Level II was rooted not only in the transfer of different kinds of resources among cooperating entities, but also in the creation of a certain “intracluster commons”, that is, a collection of goods and services available to the cluster members, albeit not belonging to a single one of them. The COs themselves were the owners and holders of these resources - in other words, higher-level structures - which by their actions and decisions of coordinators fulfilled the higher objective of each CO, that is, the support of its constituent parts (including the member companies). However, one should add that usually, the trajectory of the actions undertaken by coordinators was set on the basis of the current needs of the members themselves, who were often directly engaged in the creation of the common resource pool. Such resources may include, e.g. the creation and outfitting of a prototyping workshop in COs comprised production companies, or the preparation and realization of a training program.

The described level of cluster cooperation also encompassed the development of resources, which should be understood as raising the current grade of resources owned by the companies belonging to the COs in question. This primarily pertained to knowledge resources, which could have been developed in a non-material form (e.g. by way of personnel training or technological development), as well as a corporeal form (e.g. on the basis of the extension of a machine park). Nevertheless, it should be noted that at level II, the development and supplementation of resources did not manifest itself in the form of collective action undertaken with a view to creating a common good (as was the case at level IV). This type of cooperation was undertaken to further the individual interests of the cluster members.

On the discussed stage of development of COs, the second area of cooperation among members was “integration at the process level”. It should be treated as a secondary, albeit important enough area that it was included in the name of cooperation level II. Actions from this area centered on the integration of processes which, given their similarities, could be executed in mutual cooperation, which ultimately was to lead to attaining the objective of reducing the cost of business operations or raising the quality of products and services (see Tab. 5.3, quotations 3-4). In the COs under consideration, this pertained to i.a. the formulation and use of shared quality standards, development of shared distribution channels, shared supplies (group purchases), or shared promotion of COs and their members.

As we include in the analysis, the set of features specifying particular forms of cooperation, it is worth paying attention to the collective nature of actions characterizing the described level of cooperation (see Tab. 5.3, quotations 5-6) and the still (in contrast to the previously discussed form of cooperation) “individual” nature of both the “goals of institutional members” (see Tab. 5.3, quotations 7-8), as well as their “interests” (see Tab. 5.3, quotations 9—10).

However, this should not come as a surprise, considering that - as the study has shown - the form of cooperation under our consideration characterized those economic collectives, in which relations with other entities were made in the near past (which means that their cooperation was still at an early stage), or referred to companies in which the configuration of particular interests and the objectives resulting therefrom did not require undertaking cooperative actions at a higher level (described in the further course of this chapter). In short, in each CO, the authors managed to identify such a group of companies, which was primarily interested in reaping even incremental, albeit sure and quickly available benefits by cooperating with other cluster members. They were able to display commitment in “collective” actions, albeit only when these actions were not tied to a high risk, and the companies would not have to wait long to obtain the benefits of such commitment in specific actions, with the benefits themselves being relatively certain.

 
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