Level IV "Creation and Integration at the Organizational Level"

The fourth and final identified level of the development of cooperative relationships in COs - “Creation and integration at the organizational

Table S.S General objectives and cooperation markers at cooperation level IV - selected quotations

General objectives and cooperation markers

Selected quotations

Setting up conditions to create common added value by pooling resources

1 “What counts is the creation of an ecosystem, listening to others, and focusing on the project, not on networking. Networking, meetings - for me, these are only means of taking action. The objective itself is cooperation, project consortia, shared projects”. (Cl)

2 “A natural cluster is one in which companies complement one another in the value chain”. (C6)

Activities (collective)

3 “Cooperation in different forms ... I try to be responsible for that and I have to honestly say, it’s proving to be really hard. At the level of specific organizational forms: spin-off, spin-out, the incubation of new companies - we don’t have that here, but we could take joint action within a cluster”. (Dl)

4 “The execution of common projects by members of consortia created within a cluster - those are best practices in a cluster”. (D2)

Goals (collective)

5 “That should be the objective of a cluster - it should lead to more sales. This can’t be a single product, but a group of products. It must lead to more sales or allow for sales to begin with. And that doesn’t have to be the end of it”. (B6)

6 “We’d like to, like in the premises of our cluster, which we really liked, to create, within a dozen or so years, perhaps, a region for specialized products or services, where all local entities would participate. The ideal goal for a cluster. And to gain competitive advantage thanks to a given product - a top-of-the- shelf product based on scientific research”. (B5)

Interests (collective)

7 “There is another important aspect of trust within a cluster. The faith that we can disclose our fresh ideas for business. In other to make business together”. (DIO)

8 “We have matured enough to share our knowledge with selected companies within the cluster with a view to making profits together”. (D7)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration level” - is the most mature. However, as studies have shown, in its fullest form, it is the least common form of cooperation. The main objective at this level of cooperation was to set up, within COs, favorable conditions for the creation of common added value by pooling resources of the cluster members (see Tab. 5.5, quotations 1-2), which was reflected in the first part of the term, describing this level of development of COs: “creation”.

This distinguishes the level under consideration from the others; at the first three levels, there was an exchange of resources and information, while at level IV, the cluster members in fact pooled their resources with a view to creating common added value. As studies show, added value may be considered within different categories - the term may pertain both to new knowledge (primarily technical and technological knowledge) created jointly by a group of members, as well as to the creation of products and services, which then become part of the offer of the cooperating companies (all or just some). In case of cooperation in the field of innovation, the efforts of the cluster members may be focused on developing innovations, primarily product-based and process-based innovations. However, it should be stressed that actions targeted at creating common added value were undertaken very rarely in the studied COs (they were relatively more common in the ICT sector than in the metal sector).

Cooperation targeted at creating added value was tied to much further- reaching integration of the cluster members - not only at the individual level (with respect to specific people representing their home organizations), but also at the institutional level (which was accented by the second part of the name of the described level of cooperation: “integration at the organizational level”). Cooperation at level IV required the cooperating entities to mutually align their operations, as well as respect jointly agreed- upon rules and regulations, which in turn necessitated changes at different levels of the organization (e.g. in the organizational structure). The two attributes described above (that is, creation of added value and integration at the organizational level) characterized all forms of cooperation assigned to level IV of the development of COs.

Cooperation on the fourth and final level should be treated as a maturity test with respect to COs. As the study has shown, the efficiency of actions undertaken at this level was primarily dependent on the effects achieved at lower levels (the development of relationships, obtaining access to information and resources, integration at the processes level, developing favorable conditions for cooperation), which became the foundation for the further development of more mature forms of cooperation among cluster members. Thanks to cooperation with respect to exchanging and developing resources, contacts made at the level of social integration (breaking the barrier of anonymity and distrust) have blossomed into personal relationships among some cluster members, which had the potential to lead to the development of formal cooperation. However, this does not mean that within a single CO all of members have arrived at the different levels at the same time. As the study has shown, COs may create conditions facilitating development at a given level of cooperation, but the success of attaining subsequent levels is itself a highly individual trait.

The unique nature of level IV is tied to the fact that all three markers of the level of development (including the “interests of institutional members”) may be considered to be collective (see Tab. 5.5, quotations 3-8).

It should be stressed that the benefits generated by cooperating at level IV of the development of COs - in contrast to cooperation at the previous level, which also generated specific outcomes - are tied to the market operations of the engaged companies and may directly affect their profit margin. Cluster members which managed to cooperate at level IV have gone beyond the sphere of caring only for their own prospects of development by pinning their own interests to the interests of a broader, partly external structure. The members have endeavored to take such actions, which would benefit the development of the aggregate whole (see Tab. 5.5, quotations 7-8). They have made this through “collective” actions oriented at achieving the “goals of institutional members” (see Tab. 5.5, quotations 5-6), without losing sight of the “collective” perspective, both in the sphere of direct intent, as well as the realm of the “character of undertaken actions” (see Tab. 5.5, quotations 3-4).

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