Chapter 3: Inward Flows of Information and Knowledge in Low-tech Industrial Districts: Contrasting the ‘Few Firms Gatekeeper’ and ‘Direct Peer’ Models
Fiorenza Belussi, Silvia R. Sedita, Tine Aage and Daniele Porcellato 1. INTRODUCTION Since the model of the industrial district (ID) was conceptualized more than 100 years ago by Alfred Marshall, interest in the spatial agglomeration of specialized industries has remained surprisingly static. Following Marshall, a vast array of theoretical and empirical contributions has identified the important elements that support the formation of local dynamics. These elements include what are often referred to as ‘localized external economies’, such as: the pooling of skilled workers; the presence of specialized industries and specific infrastructures; the emergence of cooperative behaviours among local firms and the existence of an ‘industrial atmosphere’ that stimulates the transfer of knowledge among local firms; the introduction of novelties; and the rapid adoption of ‘good ideas’. As has been acknowledged, the Marshallian tradition contains, in a nutshell, a modern theory of localized learning and innovation (Asheim, 1996; Nooteboom, 1999; Belussi and Gottardi, 2000; Maskell, 2001). However, how locally based organizational systems (including district variants such as clusters, innovative environments and localized production systems) absorb relevant externally produced information and knowledge is not well understood. How subsequent knowledge propagation occurs among firms within the borders of a district also remains to be explained. The aim of our contribution is to fill this gap by providing empirical evidence to disentangle the complexity of the mechanism by which knowledge and information flow in industrial districts. We refer to information as related to fashion, market trends or new technologies (‘knowwhat’ – highly codified), and to...
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