Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth
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Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth

Edited by Philip Cooke, Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma, Ron Martin, Dafna Schwartz and Franz Tödtling

Today, economic growth is widely understood to be conditioned by productivity increases which are, in turn, profoundly affected by innovation. This volume explores these key relationships between innovation and growth, bringing together experts from both fields to compile a unique Handbook.
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Chapter 7: The New Marshallian Districts and their Process of Internationalization

Fiorenza Belussi


Fiorenza Belussi INTRODUCTION Firms in industrial districts (hereafter ‘district firms’) are characterized by very complex interactions. Thus, there is an innate level of indeterminacy, diversity, variety and pluralism, which explains why, behind the industrial district (ID) conceptualization, first proposed by Alfred Marshall, we encounter so many morphological varieties. The international literature has stressed three main elements which specifically characterize the ID organizational form: (1) the density of local social and economic networks; (2) the co-presence of rivalry and cooperation; and (3) the active presence of district institutions that support its long-term expansion (Paniccia, 2002; Markusen, 1996; Saxenian, 1994; Sammarra, 2003; Feldman, 2004; Becattini et al., 2003). Industrial districts are geographically bounded spatial systems whose extension can correspond to or cross or overlap the regional boundary (Cooke et al., 1997; Cooke, 1998). The process of globalization of the IDs has broken the self-contained elements of ID working. Firstly, the local cooperative network which emerged during the development of an enlarged inter-firm division of labour (being at the basis of the social capital embedded in the territory) has been subjected to a process of opening. The new Marshallian districts are now often characterized by inwards and outwards flows of labour forces, entrepreneurs and intermediated activities. Examples of this include the US industrial district of Silicon Valley (Saxenian, 1999) in which a consistent proportion of entrepreneurs and technicians declare a foreign provenance; or the Italian districts of Prato and Arzignano (Belussi and Sedita, 2010), characterized by the phenomenon of ‘inverse delocalization’, where the...

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