Commitment at Cooperation Level IV

In contrast to the previous three discussed levels, the fulfillment of all three objectives assigned to level IV required full commitment on the part of both coordinators and cluster members alike. To the greatest extent, this pertained to two key objectives: pooling resources with a view to creating common added value (the second specific objective) and organizational integration (the third specific objective). The first specific objective defined at level IV - providing access to knowledge and information reserved for trusted partners - derived from the other two aforementioned objectives, which meant that in this case the cluster members also had to display commitment on their part.

As the study has shown, the development of cooperative relationships at cooperation level IV required the creation of separate subgroups within COs, linked in the desire to achieve common goals and hold common business resulting from the undertaken forms of cooperation. Depending on the character of cooperation, these could be teams focused on the development of permanent cooperation within COs (e.g. division of labor in the value chain in the case of processes pertaining to the manufacturing of goods or offering services and the establishment of joint economic activity), groups and consortia focused on joint projects, as well as groups committee to launching common projects (incubators and special purpose vehicles). Differences among the studied COs (resulting from the specific nature of their sectors), which were made apparent at this level of cooperation, indicate that companies from the metal sector were more inclined toward cooperation within the value chain (the final effect of which were shared products or goods), while companies from the ICT sector were to the largest degree focused on the joint execution of projects.

At the level at hand, cooperation did not exist between all of the members of the studied COs, but to be considered as part of the clusters’ activities, they had to fall within the cluster, that is, the cooperation had to exist between at least three members of a given CO, with the active commitment on the part of the coordinator. Among the partners were entities from outside of the COs (for instance, institutions from the R&D sector), which were invited to participate or which themselves initiated cooperation with COs. The described level of development of COs proved very hard to achieve. For this reason, the above forms of cooperation were adopted by a small number of cluster members in the studied COs - primarily those which developed strong relationships and which - thanks to having relevant skills - were able to establish and develop such cooperation. However, a small number of companies belonging to the studied COs were able to reach the level of self-awareness, which would allow them to see the benefits resulting from synergy effects (achievable by way of, e.g. participation in joint projects, resulting in the implementation of a new manufacturing technology or the introduction of a new product on the market, with the sales profits divided among all entities). One of the key conditions of achieving the aforementioned level of self-awareness was the company having a sufficient (and stable in the long run) amount of resources required to function without running into problems. In other words: it is hard to speak of a given economic entity achieving a higher level of cooperation without taking care of its fundamental needs. For this reasons, the companies which cooperated at this level were primarily companies with an established high market condition.

The Development of Permanent Cooperation Among Cluster Members

One example of cooperation focused on the fulfillment of objectives assigned to level IV of corporate relationships in COs is cooperation within the value chain, in which specific sets of functions (the links of the chain) - especially activities excluded from level II and included in level IV of cooperation (tied to planning, development, and manufacturing) - were divided among the cluster members, among which each of the members generated additional value, adding to the general pool of added value. Despite attempts, none of the studied COs managed to fully develop this form of cooperation. Nor did the studied COs manage to build teams focused on developing long-term cooperation, though the COs did feel the shortage of such forms of cooperation (see Tab. 5.15, quotation 6).

This was the result of not only the weakness of COs, but also their environment. The fact that the concept situates level III (“Impact on the environment”) before level IV (“Creation and integration at the organizational level”) reflects the trajectory of the development of COs, as well as points to the fact that some of the problems in the environment, which negatively affect the development of cooperative relationships in COs, may be solved with the active support on the part of coordinators and cluster members. However, in the case of some of the environmental factors, the influence of COs may be severely limited. In COs from the metal sector, the main problem preventing the development of cooperation in the value chain was the lack of large, strong companies, around which smaller companies would congregate, filling important links in the value chain. After the downfall of important production plants in the structure of regional economies in which the COs from the metal sector functioned, considerable fragmentation occurred (with small and medium-sized enterprises dominating). The subsequent fusion of the fragmented elements by way of developing a value chain with the participation of selected cluster members, which would allow for the production of a common good in the region, would provide a chance for the development of the entire regional economy and, in particular, the group of directly committed entities. The integration of at least a part of the fragmented metal sector would raise the potential of the cooperating companies - the skillful combination of their competences would have a synergy effect (counted among the most important attributes of both

Specific objectives (specific roles)

Commitment

Selected quotations

Providing access to knowledge and information reserved for trusted partners

Participation in project groups and consortia

1 “We are heading toward a level of the creation and exchange of knowledge, but only on the basis of a specific consortium. It’s like with the square and the rectangle. We may execute a project within the cluster, but the project is not the cluster. In other words, we do exchange knowledge within a consortium (a joint project by cluster members) created within the cluster, but the knowledge remains in that project and is only shared within the project [...] The exchange of knowledge is among the participants of the project, not throughout the entire cluster. Knowledge exchange only takes place within projects”. (Dl)

2 “The creation of new knowledge is a hard process, as it requires field-specific projects. In order for it to work, a specific kind of project must be executed, such as a smart city, smart building project, along with some funds and specific market potential”. (D4)

Facilitating resource pooling to create common added value

Short- and long-term cooperation teams (participation in project groups and consortia,

participation in teams focused on the development of permanent cooperation)

3 “The common denominator is that someone who produces doorknobs needs a mold. And another person could make that mold - that’s the denominator. [...) It’s about supplementing each other’s needs”. (A4)

4 “In my constructs, I strive for my projects to be synergistic, but not competitive. Companies which build houses do not manufacture bricks. There’s certain wisdom and intelligence in the fact that when we clash together companies which are doing the same thing, it will be hard for them to get along. When I help them at this stage, provide them with a resource, I will have a future partner. The best conglomerates are those in which companies create something together and do not perceive one another as a threat”. (C2)

Organizational

integration

Participation in project groups and consortia (cooperation in the implementation of joint projects)

5 “I don’t think we are missing a common product. We put too much weight into that. It’s important for partners to integrate around some kind of a project. Projects are more important than products. It’s always about strong joint projects, not products - that’s the way we’re heading as a matter of strategy”. (D4)

Participation in teams focused on the development of permanent cooperation (value chain cooperation and common products)

6 “When we speak of clusters - of the associations we have with clusters - we speak of products which are representative of a given place. It is enough to look at their labels to know they are being made there. Like in Italy - they came with products, entire villages worked on a world brand (one person makes one thing, another makes something else), but I hauled trucks’ worth of product out of there, products that the entire village worked on. And they are aware of the idea of a commercial design. If you’d gone there, you’d see that despite the fact that it’s a small community, everyone there is working together under a single boss, as if it were a cluster. We need something like this here, but it’s missing”. (B7)

Launching joint ventures

7 “Our cluster participates in, or is an initiator together with the Gorz.ow Technology Center, in the creation of SPVs. We created at least 3 such companies last year, which made use of EU subsidies. These entities belonged to our cluster, that is, the member companies and the GOT. These companies exist, function, managed to get through the experimental incubation stage, and are now entering serial production. The idea of creating these companies came from both the cluster and GOT”. (B2)

Source: Authors’ own elaboration cluster members and COs), manifesting itself in the form of multiplied benefits, which would be impossible to obtain by a single entity.

The responses made by respondents from COs from the metal sectors have allowed us to derive three alternative models of cooperation, which - according to the respondents themselves - could lead to the integration of entities in the value change and the subsequent creation of common added value. The first model of cooperation is based on the cooperation of large companies with local companies from the SME sector, localized in the same region. In this model, the cooperation would focus on key companies (in the role of Integrator) tied with a group of small and medium-sized enterprises - suppliers and subcontractors. The second model is predicated upon supporting the development of cooperation of COs with partners located outside the region. The impulse for the development of this kind of cooperation in the studied COs came from contracts made during meetings with the aim of integration and connecting potential partners (such as cooperation exchanges, trade fairs, meetings on the CO forum with guest participation). Due to the lack of perspectives of the development of cooperation with stronger players (the lack of a central point around which the companies could gather) and a very fragmented industry, the studied COs from the metal sector have gravitated toward the third identified model - primarily based on the cooperation of small and medium-sized enterprises with a diversified skillset and strong far-reaching specialization. However, as the study has shown, this model of cooperation was very demanding from the perspective of coordinating operations. The hardship resulted from the lack of a dominant partner who - in the name of their own interests - would coordinate the entirety of the work leading to the creation of the final product.

 
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