Edited by Philip Cooke, Mario Davide Parrilli and José Luis Curbelo
* Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and Fabrice Comptour 1. INTRODUCTION One of the traditional advantages associated with clusters of firms has been their capacity to engender greater innovation and to transform this innovation into economic growth (Porter, 2000c). Groups of firms working in the same or in closely related sectors are deemed to generate agglomeration economies and knowledge spillovers. These spillovers, in turn, are at the root of self-reinforcing processes of innovation and growth (Capello, 1999). Physical proximity among firms is considered to facilitate the emergence of interaction and the formation of interpersonal and firm networks leading to the genesis of complex collective learning mechanisms (Melachroinos and Spence, 2001; Storper and Venables, 2004). Knowledge spillovers and collective learning mechanisms thus help transform mere clusters of firms into ‘neo-Marshallian industrial districts’ (Becattini, 1987), ‘new industrial spaces’ (Scott, 1988), ‘innovative milieux’ (Aydalot, 1986), ‘learning regions’ (Morgan, 1997), or ‘regional innovation systems’ (Cooke et al., 1997; Cooke and Morgan, 1998), where firms and the territories they are located in – together with their intrinsic social and structural characteristics and interactions – are put at the centre of the innovation process and of the generation of economic growth. Hence, local social structures, interaction, and collective learning processes within clusters are viewed as making firms located in close physical proximity more innovative and more dynamic than isolated firms (Baptista and Swann, 1998). The link between clusters of firms, innovation, and economic growth has generally been based on a large number of case studies where the learning processes of...
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