Cases and Policies
Handbooks of Research on Clusters series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson
Chapter 17: Innovation, Collaboration and Learning in Regional Clusters: A Study of SMEs in the Aberdeen Oil Complex
* Andrew Cumbers, Danny MacKinnon and Keith Chapman In recent years there has been a growing debate in the regional development literature about the role of collaborative relations and geographical proximity in stimulating innovation processes. The advantages to be gained from localized collective learning relationships are claimed to be particularly important for SMEs in helping oﬀset the size-related advantages of larger ﬁrms. Such claims are part of a wider rediscovery of the beneﬁts of clustering and agglomeration in economic geography. Yet, to date, theoretical speculation about the renewed importance of geographical clustering for SMEs has run ahead of detailed empirical research. Beyond a few well-known case studies of high-tech clusters, there have been few attempts to ‘test’ systematically assertions made about the links between innovation, collaboration and learning. Our purpose in this chapter is to contribute new empirical evidence to this debate through a case study of SMEs in the Aberdeen oil complex. While ﬁnding some evidence to support the role of localized forms of collaboration among the most innovative SMEs, our results also indicate the importance of extralocal networks of knowledge transfer and the unequal power relations which underpin inter-ﬁrm relations. These ﬁndings draw attention to the broader spatial and social relations within which localized clusters are embedded. 1 Introduction Issues of regional innovation and learning have been the subject of considerable interest from economic geographers for a number of years (for example, Cooke et al., 2004; Keeble et al., 1999; Capello, 1999; MacKinnon et al., 2002,...
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