When do global pipelines enhance knowledge diffusion in clusters?

Economic Geography, 86(1): 77-96

This article is co-authored with Andrea Morrison and Lorenzo Zirulia.

Recent studies have stressed the role played by global pipelines in fostering the growth of clusters and innovativeness. In this article, we develop a formal model to investigate when global pipelines contribute to an increase in local knowledge, depending on various characteristics of clusters such as size, knowledge endowment, and the ease of transmission of internal knowledge. This model is an extension of Cowan and Jonard’s (2004) model in which we introduce the concept of cluster and a role for spatial proximity in the diffusion of knowledge. Our results reveal that there is a natural tendency of actors within global pipelines to act as external stars, rather than gatekeepers of knowledge. Global pipelines are beneficial for the accumulation of knowledge only if the cluster is either characterized by a high-quality local buzz or is small and weakly endowed in terms of knowledge.


Persistence versus Change in the International Specialization Pattern of Italy: How much does the ‘District Effect’ matter?

Regional Studies 45 (3), 381–401 

The paper is in collaboration with Alessia Amighini and Marinella Leone.

It investigates the evolution of specialization patterns for the Italian provinces over the period 1995-2005 by analysing the dynamics of the sectoral distribution in the Balassa index of revealed comparative advantages. The results show that underlying a relatively stable distribution of national comparative advantages over time, there are wide variations in local performance: only a few provinces demonstrate any stability in their specialization over the last decade, with the majority showing decreased specialization. We find a higher average degree of persistence for provinces with districts, but no systematic differences between provinces with or without industrial districts. District provinces show wide variation, with a few concentrating on their past comparative strengths, but many diversifying.

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Knowledge and information networks in an Italian wine cluster

European and Planning Studies, 17(7): 983-1006

The paper is in collaboration with Andrea Morrison.

The aim is to analyse the nature and extent of knowledge and information networks in an Italian wine cluster. Moreover, the relation between firms’ characteristics and the knowledge network structure is also explored. The empirical findings show that knowledge is unevenly distributed in clusters and that networks of knowledge and information differ a great deal in terms of their structure. In fact, knowledge flows are restricted to a tightly connected community of local producers, differing in terms of knowledge assets, innovation behaviour and overall economic performance with respect to the rest of the firms in the cluster.

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ICTs in Industrial Districts: An Empirical Analysis on Adoption, Use and Impact in the Biella Textile District

Industry and Innovation, 14(3): 277-303

The paper is in collaboration with Tommaso Ciarli.

The aim of this study is to analyse the main determinants of the adoption and use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and the relationship between ICT and the patterns of innovation in an Italian industrial district. The analysis is carried out on a database of 118 textile enterprises located in Biella, a well known industrial district specialised in medium to high quality woollen yarns and textiles, which have been interviewed following a structured questionnaire.
On the whole, the rate of adoption and use of ICT in Biella is rather low, confirming the results of other studies on industrial districts specialised in traditional sectors. Nevertheless, our analysis also shows that considering ICT as a general technology may be misleading. It is instead useful to disentangle among different ICT; in particular, there are significant differences between IT involving production, administration and logistic processes and communication technologies (CT). Moreover, we have tested on a smaller sample of 50 firms the hypothesis that adoption and use of ICT may positively influence innovation. Here, the most interesting finding is that different types of innovations, i.e. product, process and organisational innovations, are influenced by very different variables.


Business Development Service Centres in Italy: close to firms far from innovation

World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, 4(1): 38-55 

The article is co-authored with Carlo Pietrobelli.

The notion of ‘Business Development Service’ (BDS) is quickly gaining popularity among policy makers and scholars of management, industrial organization and development. Similarly, attention is increasingly paid to the institutions and centers offering BDS, as an essential part of the ‘local’ or ‘regional innovation system’. The paper analyses the experience of BDS Centres in three highly developed Italian regions, Emilia Romagna, Lombardia and Veneto, and evaluates their performance and contribution to the regional industrial, and notably SME, development. The paper is based on a survey of 30 BDS Centres and it uses quantitative together with qualitative evidence.

Download the pdf, JA WRSTSD 2007-01

Upgrading to Compete: SMEs, Clusters and Value Chains in Latin America

Upgrading to Compete: SMEs, Clusters and Value Chains in Latin America

Published by Harvard University Press

Edited with Carlo Pietrobelli

This books investigates clusters and value chains in Latin America. Globalization imposes new conditions and rules for competitiveness in international markets. It poses the imperative to link up with other actors, both at the local and at the global level, and find new ways to interact and learn from the relationship. Can local markets and clusters represent a powerful alternative to global markets? Do transnational corporations and global buyers play a role and enhance or undermine local firms’ upgrading and learning? What opportunities do clustering and global value chains offer to SMEs in global markets?
Upgrading to Compete shows that both the local and the global dimensions matter at once. Clustering and collaborating with other local firms offers substantial advantages, while also participating in global value chains and interacting with foreign buyers and companies may enhance local firms’ capabilities and access to distant markets. However, what remarkably matters is the form of governance of value chains and clusters that importantly affects the upgrading process of local SMEs.
The book illustrates this with original empirical evidence from several clusters in Latin America. New case studies from Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua are supplemented by desk studies on other experiences in the region.

«At a time when there is growing interest in Latin America on active production sector strategies and on the role of SMEs, Pietrobelli and Rabellotti make in this book an essential contribution. “Upgrading to Compete” is full of quality information and insights. I look forward for the introduction of many of the ideas and recommendations of this book into policy action.»
Jose Antonio Ocampo
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs

«This book offers a new way of thinking into fundamental aspects of industrial organization and international trade and exploits original case studies to develop new ideas and stylized facts.»
Michael Piore
David W. Skinner Professor of Political Economy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The book was reviewed in Foreign Affairs

You can buy the book here

Upgrading in global value chains: lessons from Latin America clusters

World Development, 33(4): 549-73

The article is in collaboration with Elisa Giuliani and Carlo Pietrobelli.

It has been shown that clustering helps local enterprises in industrial districts overcome growth constraints and compete in distant markets in advanced and less developed countries. Nevertheless, recent contributions have stressed that more attention needs to be paid to external linkages and to the role played by global buyers to foster upgrading at cluster levels. In this study, we contribute to this debate focusing on the analysis of the relationships existing between clustering, global value chains, upgrading and sectoral patterns of innovation in Latin America. We find that sectoral specificities matter and influence the mode and the extent of upgrading in clusters integrated in global value chains.
Download the pdf, JA World Development 2005-04

Clusters facing competition: the role of external linkages

Clusters facing competition: the role of external linkages

Published by Ashgate

Edited with Elisa Giuliani and Meine Pieter van Dijk

The book is a collection of papers on clusters in developing countries. The book explores the external sources of industrial cluster competitiveness and examines how they complement, integrate and substitute local, intra-cluster networks. The novelty of this book is to merge the cluster approach with two other conceptual approaches which have become increasingly popular in cluster and development studies: on the one hand, the Global Value Chains and their role in cluster upgrading processes; on the other, the National Systems of Innovation (NSIs) and their role in supporting the development of clusters in a national territory. The book explores these issues with empirical evidence from different countries in Latin America, Asia and the industrialized world.

«This book provides numerous and timely insights into new strategies for enhancing the competitiveness of firms and local clusters in the global economy. Replete with in-depth case studies across a broad range of industries and countries, this volume is must reading for anyone seeking to identify pragmatic as well as effective responses to the challenges of international competition today.»
Gary Gereffi,
Professor, Duke University, Durham, NC / USA

You can buy the book here

Recovery of a Mexican Cluster: Devaluation Bonanza or Collective Efficiency?

World Development, 27(9): 1571-1585

Mexico, as many other developing countries in Latin America and elsewhere, has been moving in the 1980s toward a liberalized trade regime after a long period of import substitution. This paper analyzes the impact of trade liberalization on the cooperative behavior of shoe ®rms located in a cluster in Guadalajara. The empirical evidence shows that cooperation has increased. It also suggests that cooperation positively influences firms’ performance and together with a favorable market environment contributes to the cluster’s recovery. The study is based on ®eldwork carried out in Guadalajara in 1996. Qualitative information was collected through in-depth interviews and quantified responses came from a questionnaire survey covering a sample of 63 shoe manufacturing enterprises.

Download the pdf, JA World Development 1999-09