I. Setting the Stage

Introduction—Background of the Research and the Methodology Adopted

Opening Remarks and Context of the Study

The information age is reshaping current socio-economic structures and processes. Despite being at the centre of the policy agenda, and in business circles, Industry 4.0 (14.0) has so far attracted proportionally less research and scholarly attention (Muscio & Ciffolilli, 2019). This volume examines the nature of clusters in the fourth industrial revolution (14.0). It focuses on the spatial perspective of digital business transformation and explores, in natural context, the co-relations between cluster and 14.0.

Industry 4.0 stands for the digital transformation of business models and enables the fusion of virtual and real worlds (Kagennaim, Wahlster & Helbig, 2013). It encompasses a set of inter-related and inter-disciplinary technologies and heralds a far-reaching integration of processes and systems, along with the emergence of the industrial internet, integrated industry or collaborative manufacturing. The Internet of Things, Internet of Sendees and Cyber-Physical Systems and Smart Factoiy are four pillars of 14.0. Clusters, on the other hand, are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies (Porter, 2000) and hybrid forms residing somewhere between hierarchies and markets (Maskell & Lorenzen, 2003), characterised by co- opetition. Higher competitiveness and innovative capabilities render these places attractive locations (Ketels, 2004; Mahnberg & Maskell. 1999). The tension between a cluster and digital transformation, or specifically 14.0, which can lead to mass manufacturing migration, reflects the clash between the nature of these two categories, i.e. stickiness and diffusion (Buciuni & Pisano, 2015).

This study boiTows from the conceptual categories of evolutionary economic geography and draws fr om the field of international business, especially when it refers to the global production networks (Hassink & Gong, 2017). Digitalisation, understood as the application of digital technologies and infrastructures in economies and society, has led to the emergence of a novel and distinctively different type of cluster, namely, the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ (Autio, Nambisan, Thomas & Wright, 2018). This volume can be regarded as touching upon this issue as well, as it focuses, specifically, on the 14.0 clusters (as officially classified). It examines the cluster transformation in business digital transformation—the mutually reinforcing evolution (co-evolution) of clusters and 14.0.

Conceptual Framework and Research Design

The discussion presented in this volume is framed in industrial commons (IC) and related variety’ (RV) concepts and processes of stretching encompassing— hubbing and blending, which signify the expansion of scale and scope, respectively. It touches upon the issues of competitiveness and innovativeness, as they revolve around clusters (seen as a factor critical for competitiveness) and 14.0 (regarded as a disruptive innovation in production and business models). This text employs the case study method and presents two German 14.0 clusters, which can be seen as role models. Starting with the exploration of three major factors, namely: knowledge generation and dissemination, business relations and policy assistance—which make the cluster attractive for implementation of 14.0, this book develops a conceptual model of cluster transformation induced by the digital transformation.

The first pari of the research was conducted in it’s OWL cluster and is based mainly on the results of in-depth interviews held in February, 2018, in Paderbom and Lemgo, with seven cluster representatives—managers and scholars (anonymised as E1-E7). It yielded a conceptual framework, which integrates the provision of RV, IC by 14.0 cluster with stretching processes. It then frames the further exploration of Hamburg Aviation (HAv) cluster, which also employs a qualitative empirical research design. This study is of an exploratory nature, because research on 14.0 and clusters seems to lack a comprehensive and systematic investigation.

Germany is regarded as a leader and front-runner in adopting the fourth industrial revolution, so I have drawn two case studies from it, namely, two leading-edge clusters—it’s OWL and HAv, as they could provide evidence which might be regarded as best practice. The in-depth, semi-structured interviews allow me to unearth the intricacies of the cluster transformation in digital transformation, to shed light on the nuances of mutual relations, and finally, to illuminate the specific nature of cluster in 14.0 and the relationships between these two.

Both central categories—clusters and 14.0—are critical driving forces for competitiveness. So, a better understanding of these two, and the interdependencies between them, seems crucial for regional development and broader economic growth. The emerging pattern of the reverse 14.0 impact on the cluster attributes can be established and described. It might be argued that clusters in the 14.0 age would become more inter-regional and cross- sectoral, less geogr aphically anchored, and more diverse in terms of industrial activity.

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