The Role of Leading Firms in the Evolution of SMEs Clusters: Evidence from the Leather Products Cluster in Florence
Clusters that emerged in the past have changed during the latest decades, so that today the research challenge in economic geography is on their evolution over time. The aim of this paper is to update on the evolutionary path of SMEs Italian clusters, which faced with the economic crisis are undergoing a process of decline in the number of firms. Furthermore changes in the techno-economic landscape and in the competitive environment have generated new challenges. In this context, some leading firm, able to connect local resources (and firms) to global networks, have emerged over time. We argue that within SMEs clusters, the leading firms act as a gatekeeper, linking local networks to global markets. The focus will be on local networks interacting with leading firms and particular attention will be devoted to the pattern of co-evolution and to the geographical dimension of this co-evolutionary process. To empirically verify if others firms in the cluster may co-evolve with the leading firm over time, a deep analysis of the Gucci network in the leather products cluster in Florence will be carried out.
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