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 48: The Internationalisation of Production Activities of Italian Industrial Districts

Giuseppe Tattara


Giuseppe Tattara* 1. Introduction Industrial districts (IDs), since the 1970s, have been the engines of Italian industrial growth and of the rapid increase in Italian manufacturing exports. They have developed in particular in the ‘made-in-Italy’1 and mechanical engineering sectors (Becattini 1995–96; Becattini and Menghinello 1998). Since the Italian economy has always been poor in raw materials, manufacturing activity has developed as an industrial process that transformed imported goods. Consequently, Italian districts tend to be importers of raw materials and exporters of finished goods, that is, they are connected abroad through large flows of imports and exports (Piore and Sabel 1984; Becattini, 1995–96; Brusco and Paba 1997; Foresti and Trenti 2006). Few districts, if any, are dependent on domestic demand. Globalisation has brought about a sharp increase in the real and financial integration of the worldwide economy and the structure of the Italian districts has evolved in parallel. Italian districts are no longer self-contained systems of small firms where firms’ competitiveness is the result of physical proximity, connected to foreign markets at the initial and the final stage of the production and distribution activity. In the new context, firms often expand or transfer abroad one or more phases of their production activities. Thus production abroad has become the focus of industrial strategies followed by district firms seeking to reduce costs and/or to exploit potential new markets. Globalisation has reshaped the form of the district. Most district firms are now organising their value chains by coupling district knowledge and competencies...

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