Cultivating Commons

Table of Contents:

Providing ICs demands from HAv managers, but also all cluster stockholders, the efforts to literally take the common outside the bracket, as a shared element. That what divides, should be taken out of the cluster formula and focus should be on that what binds; ‘commons’ should be cultivated.

Various practices aim at improved smooth communication among members, orchestration of dispersed activities and integration of different, potentially interested actors.

The previous study dedicated to HAv revealed the importance of communication and identity building as pre-requisites for members’ engagement (Hintze, 2018). In order to make CCs more involved in cluster activities (regional co-operation), it is critical to convince them about the need for identification with the cluster as such. It implies developing the cluster identity and creation of cluster brand, which members share, feel they belong to, and of which, they can be proud. It requires, in turn, appropriate communication, which happens at ‘four floors’ (Hintze, 2018; Putnam & Nicotera, 2009). It namely involves the internal interactions, external negotiating, cluster structures and rules/norms/standards, i.e. some code of conduct, which common language is, and the practice of doing things, a routine, e.g. for organising workshops. Only then, the proper all four floors communication can create the organisation, i.e. the cluster. This element of communication, and in result, the identity, also seems central for provision of IC, understood as a bundle of idiosyncratic assets, as a sort of public good. Brand/identity is like a quality label, something recognisable. It creates the image with which cluster members can easily associate (Morgulis-Yakushev & Solved, 2017).

Developing identity is a process, which takes tune, needs routines and establishes some culture of co-operation, as uncertainty breaks only over the years. In the beginning, as stressed by cluster experts, any negotiations and talks took place, providing the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) had been signed. The mistrust was high. People were afraid of involuntary knowledge spill-overs. They needed comfortable conditions to co-operate; hence, the growing popularity of co-working spaces in Hamburg aimed at facilitating the exchange of knowledge and collaboration. The search for commons is visible, literally in actions aiming at better cross-clustering collaboration. There is a need to take the common, the shared issue ‘outside the brackets’, as some sort of binding. ZAL is thus, working more on developing a conducive environment for co-working, providing not just the space, but facilitating more interactions among their tenants, so that it could act as an integrator., a platform managed by HAv, sets out to stimulate the information exchange. It can be accessed only by members and serves as an online forum, where interested parties can share then initiatives, apply jointly for projects or exchange documents. This platform is a real integrative tool, which may support the implementation of some digital technologies, as it allows for preparing, testing and developing solutions. Various groups are dealing with specific topics, integrating a different set of members, who encourage the exchange of information, work on some joint documents, preparation of meetings, sharing proposals or presentations after the sessions.

Co-opetition distinguishes clusters as economic categories; as a result, the need is to find possibilities to foster co-operation among competitors. Competition is a natural consequence of cluster, but the challenge for CO is to reduce the rivalry and cultivate the commons, to find the value-added that the co-operation could bring to all. Cluster co-opetition means that, sometimes, in some areas the entities co-operate, while at other tunes, they compete. (COl) ‘It is the task for cluster managers to take this competition outside the formula, and to find a common element which binds, which can be taken out of the bracket, as something all members share, can adhere to’. It is hence, necessary to identify and create possibilities for people to get together, to build up a relationship, so that there is a community. (CS1) ‘They say in Hamburg—If you co-operate, you do not need a contract, you just need a handshake'.

Dark Sides

Regardless of the integrationist efforts by HAv managers and numerous natural benefits, the dark sides of cluster membership must not be ignored. Local firms and experts admit some tendencies of free riding, laziness among members, lack of interest in joint activities, unwillingness to participate in specific projects, as well as high, although, systematically falling, mistrusts and suspicion. Also, individual, well-meant, administrative decisions have caused more rivalry or damaged local relations, although, they were guided by good intentions. Besides, some competence shortages of often under-equipped members have already been mentioned. Experts highlight that trust issues in the local network, sometimes, impede collective action and joint R&D projects.

Cluster representatives regret that mutual relationships between HAv members and the HAv office seem a bit of a ‘one-way’ street. HAv, as the cluster office or umbrella organisation, co-ordinates various processes, provides matchmaking or facilitates collaboration. Members appreciate these efforts and see the value for money—and are ready to pay the membership fee, but they often do not provide feedback, are not interested in any followup or stay reluctant to get more engaged.

It is challenging to gather members together, not just because they have different interests, size or potential, but rather due to then unwillingness or some lack of conviction, that it makes sense. (CC5) ‘HAv is doing much to support members. When a new project is being initiated, all are on board when it ends; it is just with a fraction of members, 30-40%. People are unwilling, lazy perhaps’. Success, also in digital transformation, requires joining forces across the board of all members.

However, as pointed out by some expert, innovations and co-operation in the HAv are tough, because of politicians’ involvement (representatives of different federal states) and the natural need to pursue the demands of their respective local constituencies. There are tensions in this co-operation. (CE2) ‘In such a constellation, you cannot easily bring innovation’.

ZAL—one of the major players—despite its merit, seems to be perceived by many local players with much scepticism. ZAL presents itself as an impartial partner that provides a platform where actors can meet ‘eye-to-eye’, on a level playing field. However, according to the study by Buxbaum- Conradi (2018), it is not commonly perceived as being ‘neutral’. The power asymmetries among partners are visible in the working groups and technical domains. It deters smaller players, as they fear sharing expertise, and ideas are ‘absorbed’ afterwards, by the more powerful actors of the network. Universities’ representatives also tend to complain that with the establishment of the ZAL, then specialised institutes now have to compete with additional actors for qualified personnel and funding.

Apparently, as seen by some cluster experts, the policy involvement might be even seen as unfavourable, as it can create more of the bad than the good, and therefore, generate more problems. Particular decisions become a liability for research institutions, not only in terms of increased bureaucracy and administrative burdens, but they produce more rivalry unintentionally, or cause the duplication of work. That ‘created competition’ might be the reason behind some negative assessments of the policymaker's involvement. As put by some expert (CS1): ‘at the beginning all were competitors, the atmosphere was tough and thick, you could cut the air literally, and members promised—unless we sign the NDA (non-disclosure agreement), we will not talk, so mistrust was high; but now, after some years, they are more like friends’.

On a Final Note

Representing the world’s third largest aviation hub, the HAv offers its members well-organised platforms, facilitating networking, thanks to the organisation of aviation forums, workshops and symposia. It enables collaborations with international clusters and facilitates missions to foreign markets. HAv, by its dedicated bodies, is also involved in assuring programmes for attracting the next generation of specialised personnel and helps to achieve better correspondence by teaching, practice and research in aviation engineering.

An essential resource of the HAv cluster is the knowledge infrastructure with laboratories, techno-centres and universities, which encourages researching the motto, ‘a new kind of aviation’. Following the Jarvi, Alm- panopoulou and Ritala (2018) classification, it may be stated that HAv operates as knowledge ecosystems, searching within an identified knowledge domain, in opposition to the ecosystem, which is searching for a knowledge domain. In a knowledge ecosystem where a knowledge domain has already been identified, actors reveal problem- and solution-related knowledge, by participating in formal membership, gaining access to resources and their contributions are monitored (Jarvi, Almpanopoulou & Ritala, 2018).

Geographical proximity facilitates daily, often informal interactions, which build trust and encourage collaboration, including sharing sensitive information and technology know-how (Dahl & Pedersen, 2004; Saxenian, 2000; Richardson, Yamin & Sinkovics, 2012). The findings of this research also confirm the tune economies of clusters or time compression diseconomies, as it often takes years and decades to develop favourable social relations, stimulating networking (Anderson, Hakaussou & Johanson, 1994; Dahl & Pedersen, 2004; Granovetter, 1985; Xu & McNaughton, 2006). HAv provides this fluidity of connections (Kuah, 2002) that certainly goes beyond the hierarchical network linkages.

To enrich the analysis and provide some triangulation, a short online questionnaire, which addresses studied issues, has been set. HAv representatives (officials and companies), as well as regional researchers involved in exploring clusters, were asked to address certain aspects. The results obtained (35 answers), although, hi general, tend to confirm the presumed interdependencies, also revealed the avoidable in any community differences in opinions, including even strong emotional perceptions, and attitude ranging from very positive to harshly critical. It, however, confirms the unbiased composition of the sample.

The results of an anonymous online survey revealed that 77% agree (strongly agree and just agree) that the cluster facilitates digital transformation (14.0), as it provides the appropriate knowledge environment; 14% remain undecided, whereas 9% do not share this opinion (strongly disagree and disagree); 68% agree (strongly agree and just agree) that classic agglomeration benefits (input- output relations and the local labour market), present in a cluster, are crucial for advancing its digital transformation; 23% remain undecided, whereas 9% do not share this opinion (strongly disagr ee and disagree). Fixed institutional dimension gives some ‘luxury’ for long-term planning and facilitates meaningful actions, as it offers a long-tune perspective; 80% agree (strongly agree and just agree) that institutions and professional policy support available in a cluster, facilitate digital transformation; 14% remain undecided, whereas 6% do not share tins opinion (strongly disagree and disagree).

Table 6.1 Relative importance of selected elements of industrial commons

Cluster facilitates digital transformation thanks to industrial commons: (from the most to the least relevant)

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

Business relations (customer ties; supplier- linkages)





Knowledge environment (competences, knowhow and skills)





Policy support—institutions and professional management





All are equally important and should be provided simultaneously





Source. Results of the survey

Business relations (13), ahead of the knowledge environment (10), are regarded as the most critical (first place) elements of ICs. Eight respondents see, first and foremost, all components as equally important.

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