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Industrial districts and internationalization: the case of the agri-food industry in Modena, Italy


  • Paola Bertolini
  • Enrico Giovannetti


The paper explores the structural changes, in response to internationalization, in an important traditional activity (food chain, meat processing) in a typical ‘district area’. In the paper, attention is focused on the ‘Institutional structure of production’ (Coase, R. 1992) and the cluster is considered as a whole, as a complex economic player, capable of generating coherent action, regulated by institutional mechanisms, and founded on a set of ‘public assets’ which make up its ‘social capital’. The paper is based on many empirical studies and surveys aimed at exploring the structure of SMEs and the role of the local institutions: the changes observed over time and in response to internationalization underline the reinforcement of the activity's cluster configuration. These features emphasize the existence of a specific unit of analysis, indivisible from the individuals which constitute it. The discussion touches on the classical themes of the efficiency of the net-economy based on SMEs, and their prospects in a context of growing globalization. The paper does not aim to enter into the debate on the origins and mechanism of innovation. However, the case study does illustrate the strength of the hypothesis of a unit of analysis different from the firm for discussion of a number of topics: some empirical examples of innovation, of significance for the economic consolidation of the ID, highlight the importance of district relationships in the production and spread of innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Bertolini & Enrico Giovannetti, 2006. "Industrial districts and internationalization: the case of the agri-food industry in Modena, Italy," Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 279-304, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:entreg:v:18:y:2006:i:4:p:279-304
    DOI: 10.1080/08985620600613761

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    Cited by:

    1. Martineau, Charles & Pastoriza, David, 2016. "International involvement of established SMEs: A systematic review of antecedents, outcomes and moderators," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 458-470.
    2. Sabatini, Fabio, 2009. "Does social capital create trust? Evidence from a community of entrepreneurs," AICCON Working Papers 58-2009, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    3. Michaela Trippl, 2011. "Low-Tech Innovation in a High-Tech Environment? The Food Industry in the Metropolitan Region of Vienna," ERSA conference papers ersa10p133, European Regional Science Association.
    4. Angela da Rocha & Beatriz Kury & Joana Monteiro, 2009. "The Role of Flagship Firms, External Actors and Support Institutions in the Emergence of Successful Export Activities in Brazil: Two Industrial Cluster Studies," Research Department Publications 3270, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    5. Trippl, Michaela, 2010. "Low-tech innovation in a high-tech environment? The case of the food industry in the Vienna metropolitan region," SRE-Discussion Papers 1004, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    6. Pierre-Jean Benghozi & Elisa Salvador, 2014. "Are traditional industrial partnerships so strategic for research spin-off development? Some evidence from the Italian case," Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(1-2), pages 47-79, April.
    7. Kuhne, Bianka & Lambrecht, Evelien & Vanhonacker, Filiep & Pieniak, Zuzanna & Gellynck, Xavier, 2014. "Factors Underlying Farmers’ Decisions to Participate in Networks," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 4(3), pages 1-16, February.
    8. Nguyen, Thang V. & Le, Ngoc T.B. & Bryant, Scott E., 2013. "Sub-national institutions, firm strategies, and firm performance: A multilevel study of private manufacturing firms in Vietnam," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 68-76.
    9. repec:bla:jageco:v:68:y:2017:i:3:p:749-780 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Ornella W. Maietta & Cristian Barra & Roberto Zotti, 2017. "Innovation and University-Firm R&D Collaboration in the European Food and Drink Industry," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(3), pages 749-780, September.
    11. repec:taf:regstd:v:50:y:2016:i:8:p:1316-1329 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:fan:macoma:v:html10.3280/maco2018-002004 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:10:p:2755-:d:231020 is not listed on IDEAS

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