Small and Medium Enterprises

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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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

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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

An Empirical Study of the Determinants of Self-Employment in Developing Countries

Journal of International Development, 16: 803-820

The paper is co-authored with Matteo Aqulina e Carlo Pietrobelli.

Official statistics record a tremendous diversity in the level and dynamics of the self-employment rate across countries. Such diversity is even more pronounced for developing countries than for industrial countries. In these countries, self-employment figures may represent evidence of the spark of an emerging entrepreneurial class still in its infant stages, or conceal marginal urban manufacturing employment at the mere level of subsistence and disguising actual unemployment in years of economic depression. This paper documents this diversity for developing and developed countries with new empirical evidence, and tests the determinants of this diversity with econometric techniques. Estimates are presented on a sample of 64 developing countries and 19 developed countries in a period from the 1960s through the 1990s.
The results generally confirm a negative association between the rate of self-employment and the stage of development: self-employment would tend to disappear with the development process. However, we present evidence suggesting that in some cases self-employment is also related to high value-added manufactured exports, representing a dynamic and emerging form of entrepreneurship. To this aim, self-employment would not be motivated by the desire to evade taxes, but rather an active role of the government may enhance it. The relationships with the development of the financial sector, educational levels, and other cultural factors tend to vary.


The internal heterogeneity in industrial districts in Italy, Brazil and Mexico

Regional Studies, 33(2): 97-108

The paper is written in collaboration with Hubert Schmitz.

Industrial districts have attracted the attention of development economists in the search for new models of industrial development. Many case studies have shown that clustering helps local enterprises to overcome growth constraints and compete in distant markets. However, empirical studies also reveal shortcomings of the industrial district model. This paper shows that, within the districts, there is enormous heterogeneity by size and performance. Even though clustering firms feed on each other, they vary a great deal in the strategies they employ and the growth they achieve. This internal heterogeneity is investigated for three cases: the shoe industries in Italy, Brazil and Mexico.



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.

Enterprise clusters and networks as sources of cooperation and technology diffusion for small firms in developing countries

Enterprise clusters and networks as sources of cooperation and technology diffusion for small firms in developing countries

Published by Frank Cass

Edited with Meine Pieter van Dijk

This is a collection of articles on industrial districts in developing countries. It analyses the functions and advantages of clusters and networks for small enterprises in developing countries. In the opening chapter the editors describe different types of clusters and networks and compare the diverse forms of external economies and co-operation effects derived from them. Taking a multidiscplinary approach, they point out it is trust that is the social basis for positive effects of clustering and networking, which are often sources of co-operation and technology diffusion for small enterprises in developing countries.

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