Industrial Clusters and the Knowledge Based Economy : from open to distributed structures ?
During the recent years, clusters have been at the heart of a vast literature supposed to bring new arguments and perspectives to local development preoccupations. Two complementary factors are stressing for firms and territories the importance of governing the interactions of industrial actors: the globalisation of the economy and the technology and the emergence of a knowledge based economy. In local systems, agents are mostly connected with agents situated in their spatial proximity, while these local networks, as open systems, benefit from the long distance connections that some of their members are able to activate. Co-location of actors in a geographical proximity by itself is not a sufficient condition for co-ordination but can contribute to its efficiency, provided the existence of other shared dimensions among agents: organic level, representations, projects, ... As far as efficiency and performances of "classical" clusters are not only the result of the intensity and quality of internal but also external interactions and coordination, into which extent can we still consider the relevance of interaction structures restricted to bounded geographical areas? In this paper we turn our attention to the way industrial actors take into account the question of the local-global articulation for the strategic building of their own ego-network, that is the set of links they may build in order to achieve efficient interactions with partners and competitors. Thus interfaces between local and global relationships are a key feature that can be achieved through different approaches. To this aim we introduce the two concepts of knowledge gatekeeper and temporary proximity that appear as providing alternative approaches of actors partnering, likely to provide a better flexibility in the local-global trade-off. We will then present the basic form of the ego-networks on which the individual firm is able to build her relational neighbourhood. This raises the question of the combination of individual ego-networks into a consistent networked structure into which local networks are articulated by the way of local-global interfaces. On this basis we present a typology of the basic new forms of clustering where time and space can be alternatively and complementarily combined in order to achieve more flexibility and costs reduction of the localisation game.
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