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Absorptive capacity and localized spillovers: focal firms as technological gatekeepers in industrial districts

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  • Federico Munari
  • Maurizio Sobrero
  • Alessandro Malipiero

Abstract

Despite the diffusion of communication tools and boundary spanning technologies, knowledge flows in innovation processes retain a distinct localized nature in many industries, and geographical clusters emerge as critical areas to foster technological diffusion. In this article, we focus on the knowledge mediating role, as technological "gatekeepers," of focal firms in industrial districts. Based on a longitudinal dataset of 720 patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) between 1990 and 2003 to firms in the automatic packaging machinery industrial district in Northern Italy, and controlling for the uneven geographical distribution of patenting activities, we show that: (i) firms within the district use local knowledge to a greater extent and more rapidly than knowledge from outside the district, (ii) focal firms use external knowledge to a greater extent than other firms operating in the district, and (iii) other (nonfocal) firms within the district rely on knowledge generated by focal firms to a greater extent than would be expected, given the geographic distribution of innovative activity in the industry. Implications for research on innovation in localized economic systems and firm-level strategic differentiation are discussed. Copyright 2012 The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Associazione ICC. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Federico Munari & Maurizio Sobrero & Alessandro Malipiero, 2012. "Absorptive capacity and localized spillovers: focal firms as technological gatekeepers in industrial districts," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 429-462, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:21:y:2012:i:2:p:429-462
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/icc/dtr053
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    Cited by:

    1. Ron Boschma, 2015. "Towards an Evolutionary Perspective on Regional Resilience," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(5), pages 733-751, May.
    2. Jose-Luis Hervas-Oliver, 2012. "Are technological gatekeepers constraining my cluster? Unfolding the paradox of gatekeepers resilience across cluster life cycle stages," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1206, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised May 2012.
    3. repec:bla:growch:v:48:y:2017:i:3:p:336-358 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:enr:rpaper:0020 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Serena Frazzoni & Maria Luisa Mancusi & Zeno Rotondi & Maurizio Sobrero & Andrea Vezzulli, 2014. "Innovation and export in SMEs: the role of relationship banking," Working Papers Department of Economics 2014/18, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    6. Aiqi Wu & Cassandra C. Wang & Shengxiao Li, 2015. "Geographical knowledge search, internal R&D intensity and product innovation of clustering firms in Zhejiang, China," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94(3), pages 553-572, August.
    7. Stefano Breschi & Camilla Lenzi, 2015. "The Role of External Linkages and Gatekeepers for the Renewal and Expansion of US Cities' Knowledge Base, 1990-2004," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(5), pages 782-797, May.
    8. repec:ctc:serie1:def18 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Jose-Luis Hervas-Oliver & Jose Albors-Garrigos, 2013. "Are Technological Gatekeepers Constraining my Cluster? Unfolding the paradox of gatekeepers resilience across cluster life cycle stages," DRUID Working Papers 13-04, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    10. Alessia Lo Turco & Daniela Maggioni, 2017. "Local Discoveries and Technological Relatedness: the Role of Foreign Firms," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1710, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2017.
    11. Jiang Wei & Minfei Zhou & Mark Greeven & Hongyan Qu, 2016. "Economic governance, dual networks and innovative learning in five Chinese industrial clusters," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 1037-1074, December.
    12. Tom Broekel & Wladimir Mueller, 2017. "Critical links in knowledge networks. What about proximities and gatekeeper organizations?," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1711, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2017.
    13. Wang, Cassandra C. & Wu, Aiqi, 2016. "Geographical FDI knowledge spillover and innovation of indigenous firms in China," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 895-906.
    14. Qiantao Zhang & Niall G. MacKenzie & Dylan Jones-Evans & Robert Huggins, 2016. "Leveraging knowledge as a competitive asset? The intensity, performance and structure of universities’ entrepreneurial knowledge exchange activities at a regional level," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 657-675, October.

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