Italian SMEs and Industrial Districts on the move: where are they going?

European and Planning Studies, 17(1): 19-41

The paper is co-authored with Anna Carabelli and Giovanna Hirsch.

Since the second half of the 1990s the Italian economy has experienced a significant slowdown in the rate of economic growth. The ‘dwarfism’ of its manufacturing firms, their specialisation in traditional sectors and their organisation in industrial districts have been identified by many scholars as major structural weaknesses in the Italian industrial system. Nevertheless, there is a vast and flourishing empirical literature showing that many industrial districts are actually changing in terms of sector specialisation, international and innovation strategies and emergence of new forms of enterprise organisation. In this paper, we provide a critical survey of the new and different patterns of industrial organisation emerging in industrial districts.

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The Role of Research in Wine: the Emergence of a Regional Research Area in an Italian Wine Production System

International Journal of Technology and Globalization 3(2/3): 155- 178

The article is written in collaboration with Andrea Morrison.

In recent years, the wine industry has undergone a radical technological modernisation in which scientific research has become extremely prominent. Focusing on a regional research system related to wine, we provide a detailed account of the structural features of the research and extension institutions in the Piedmont region and how they interact. The empirical analysis is based on detailed interviews with people from research centres, universities, extension agencies as well as on a database of research projects on topics relevant to the wine industry. Social network analysis is employed to describe the structural properties of the networks that have been established among universities, research and business organisations and firms, as a result of these projects. Based on these two data sources we provide a detailed picture of the actors, linkages and processes underpinning the regional wine research system.


The effects of globalization on Italian industrial districts: Evidence from the footwear sector

European Planning Studies, 14(4): 485-502

This paper is in collaboration with Alessia Amighini.

It examines the impact of globalisation of production on the Italian footwear sector and investigates the structural changes taking place in some shoe districts as they join international production networks.
The following questions are discussed: Are Italian footwear districts specialising in particular phases of the production cycle? Is there a trend towards the reduction of activities carried out within districts? Or are different patterns emerging according to the districts’ main market segment and to the value chains (e.g. luxury fashion market or mass market) they belong to?
The study explores these issues using data on outward processing trade (OPT) collected by Associazione Nazionale Calzaturieri Italiani (ANCI) to analyse the fragmentation of production in the footwear sector at “provincia” level. The available disaggregation of data allows us to investigate the different outsourcing strategies and emerging trends within the district. Two case studies are presented; one on Riviera del Brenta in Veneto and the other on Barletta in Puglia.
In the footwear districts investigated, we find evidence of different international delocalisation strategies. We argue that these different patterns of specialisation are closely related to the clusters’ market position and suggest that these patterns influence the clusters’ potential for future competitiveness.

Collective effects in Italian and Mexican footwear industrial clusters

Small Business Economics, 10(3):243-262

The focus of this article is on the analysis of the collective economic effects deriving from the intense set of backward, forward, labor, horizontal and institutional linkages existing within clusters of enterprises. Among the economic effects two main categories are distinguished: external economies, which are the spontaneous by-product of economic activities undertaken within the clusters and cooperation effects, which are the results of explicit and deliberate cooperative behaviors of the economic actors. In the empirical investigation, these economic effects have been analyzed in four clusters of footwear firms in Italy and Mexico. The first result of the empirical investigation is the confirmation of the importance of collective efficiency both in the ‘proper’ Italian districts and in the Mexican clusters. Nevertheless, there are considerable differences concerning the intensity and quality of the collective effects between the realities studied. Those differences are explained through the impact of the disparities in the outside environment on the core characteristics of the different clusters. Finally, some considerations about the need for moving from a static to a dynamic approach to explain differences between stages of development and growth trajectory patterns of the districts are put forward.


External economies and cooperation in industrial districts: a comparison of Italy and Mexico

External economies and cooperation in industrial districts: a comparison of Italy and Mexico

This book was published by McMillan and also translated in Persian.

The success of industrial districts in Europe has attracted the interest of development economists in their search for new industrial development models. This study explores the extent to which the industrial district ‘model’ explains the realities of four footwear clusters in Italy, the ‘land’ of districts, and in Mexico, a less developed country. Empirical investigation confirms that there are gains from clustering; however, differences have also been identified in the intensity and quality of collective effects between the realities studied and the ‘model’. Those differences are attributed to disparities in the external environments, to heterogeneity of economic actors, and to the adoption of a dynamic approach to interpret cluster growth trajectories.

Is there an industrial district “model”? Footwear districts in Italy and Mexico

World Development, 23 (1) 29-41

In this paper we present the results of empirical research carried out in two footwear clusters located in Italy, the “land of industrial districts,” and two clusters of footwear enterprises in Mexico. The aim of the study is to present a comparison between the ideal-typical industrial district, as it is defined in the literature, and the case studies in Mexico and Italy. Material from a survey of clusters of firms in Italy and Mexico reveals how clusters in both countries differ in some aspects from the “textbook” model. Similarities and differences are- investigated in some detail, and attention is given to the intensity and quality of backward and forward linkages, the existence of an “industrial atmosphere” and the nature and extent of institutional support.


Technology and organisation in the Italian textile-clothing industry”

Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 4: 271-285

The objective of the paper in collaboration with Roberto Camagni is to draw some conclusions about the capability of the Italian textile-clothing industry to sustain the strong competition of the fast-growing industry in
developing countries, through the analysis of some examples of technological and organizational case studies of ‘best practice’.
Technological and organizational innovations have been adopted as key strategic tools for reviving and maintaining con~petitiveness in international markets. In this paper we have studied a number of enterprises, among the most technologically advanced within the textile and clothing sector and have analysed the impact of the introduction of information technologies on their organizational structure.