A Handbook of Industrial Districts
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A Handbook of Industrial Districts

Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis

In this comprehensive original reference work, the editors have brought together an unrivalled group of distinguished scholars and practitioners to comment on the historical and contemporary role of industrial districts (IDs).
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Chapter 33: Knowledge Dynamics in the Evolution of Italian Industrial Districts

Fiorenzo Belussi


Fiorenza Belussi 1. Introduction The key questions discussed in this chapter are: firstly, what types of industrial districts (IDs) are there in Italy and where do they come from? And secondly, how have they been able to develop an original technological trajectory? In Section2 the origin of the ID model is discussed, within a theoretical framework that stresses its heterogeneity. Section 3, based on an ample survey that uses information from previous studies published in academic journals and in the Club dei distretti industriali association, has collected detailed information for 55 cases and deals with the issue of the origin of Italian IDs. In particular, the impact of four triggering factors (ancient craft traditions, natural resource endowment, anchor firm and exogenous entry) is examined. Growth-evolutionary factors in the development of the Italian districts are, then, elaborated in Section 4. The main results in terms of district heterogeneity and multiple paths are examined in the conclusions in Section 5. 2. At the origins of the Italian ID model While the expansion of the Italian districts historically dates back to the post-war period (Becattini 1990; Brusco and Paba 1997; Becattini and Coltorti 2006), the embryonic development of many of them dates back to the end of the 19th century. The Italian district model has enjoyed a long-term slow growth. Differently from the experience of others countries, Italy has not witnessed a sudden decline and dissolution of its IDs (like Britain prior to the Second World War) nor a rapid upsurge – such as...

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