Cluster dynamics and innovation in SMEs: the role of culture
The territorial agglomeration of interdependent enterprises has a positive influence on the competitiveness, the performance and the development of national economies. This is a widely accepted intuition in economie theory, and it dates back to the works of Alfred Marshall. In particular, these phenomena have been depicted through the theoretical framework of the "IndustriaI Districts". Another signifieant impulse to the debate was provided by the GREMI (Groupe de Recherche Européen sur les Milieux Innovateurs), through the concepì of milieu innovateur. Later, Michael Porter's studies and dissemination works granted great visibility to the dynamics of agglomeration of industries, which since then afe better known among policy makers as "clusters". At any rate, the importance of the cultural element in the concepts of "cluster", milieu, and "district" is undeniable. This is evident also when observing the phenomenon from a historieal perspective. Evidence shows that the strength of a loeal economie system, and its eapacity to grow and 10 innovate, afe closely related 10 the pattern of knowledge (thus cultural) stratifieation, to the territory itself and to learning eapacity. Moreover, one can observe that cultural socioeconomie elements afe embedded in technology, thus they play a key role when considering the dynamics of innovation process and growth opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). With this respect, the paper wìll present some relevant case studies of technical assistance earried out by in the field of industriai cooperation with several non-ED Mediterranean countries. In particular, the paper will present those case studies where initiatives were sei up with a view 10 encourage cluster dynamics in regions (i.e. Aleppo, Syria or Yazd, Iran), where the main sector of activity (textile and clothing industry) is his1orically and culturally based. In particular, several factors were involved, such as the cohesion of stakeholders for the creation of innovation, the development of new products, and the competìtive advantages for the loeal productìve system. The project approach and its conclusions confirm the fundamental role of culture and culture-based activities in the process of economie development, especially when considering SMEs, where culture represents both an embedded strategie foundatìon for the creation of cluster dynamics, and a signifieant potential for their future development affecting innovation trajectories.
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