Four Italian Cases
Chapter 1: Introduction
F. G. Alberti, S. Sciascia and F. Visconti In this chapter we introduce the purpose of the book, which is to explore what the antecedents of firm growth in industrial districts are, through the conceptual lenses of entrepreneurship theory. This chapter proceeds as follows; first we discuss the relevance of investigating the phenomenon of district firm growth and its implications. On the basis of that, we proceed to introduce the theoretical approach adopted in this book and we discuss the method chosen to approach our research question, together with the overall research design. The concluding section of this chapter outlines the entire structure of the book. 1.1. THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK Researchers and practitioners have long recognised geographically defined regional clusters of specialised firms as relevant socio-economic engines for the competitiveness and growth of regions and countries (Porter, 1998; 1990; Krugman, 1991). The notion of regional groupings of firms has been the subject of research for over a century, beginning with Marshall (1950), who first defined the concept of industrial districts. Concepts like innovative milieux (Camagni, 1991), regional innovation systems (Cooke, 2001), learning regions (Asheim, 1996) and regional clusters (Porter, 2000) have underlined the importance of the phenomenon. The general claim is that firms might enjoy advantages related to spatial juxtaposition. Italian industrial districts (Becattini, 1979), in particular, have proven to be a model for local socio-economic development (Piore and Sabel, 1984; Pyke et al., 1990). As several studies have shown, industrial districts are core in today’s economies (Becattini,...