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Geographical proximity and circulation of knowledge through inter-firm cooperation


  • André Torre


  • Delphine Gallaud



The production of scientific and technological innovations has become essential for many firms, but the latter are seldom in possession of all the knowledge needed for this activity because of the increasing complexity of knowledge bases or because R&D departments are too small. As they do not possess internally all the skills they need, firms wishing to innovate have recourse to external sources, such as cooperation with other firms or public organizations of research. However, acquiring external knowledge is not sufficient; one must also be able to use it in a specific process of production, to transform it into organizational routines, because it is important not only to integrate this knowledge, but ideally to use it to produce new knowledge. This process of creation, re-creation or imitation of new resources not only necessitates several technical and organizational adaptations, but also requires frequent relations of cooperation and partnership. The integration of new knowledge cannot be done in one go, but progressively during the course of the innovation projects, which implies that relations be sustained for a period of time. But the interests of the participants to this interactive process, as well as their opinions concerning technical issues sometimes vary or diverge. This is why co-operations are also sources of tensions and conflicts that jeopardize the adaptation of knowledge produced somewhere else to the context of the firm or even completely hinder the innovation process. In this paper, we try to provide some answers to the following question: What is the role played by geographical and organized proximities in the context of these external acquisitions of knowledge? In other words, can they help reduce the intensity of conflicts and thus facilitate the interactive process of innovations? First, we present shortcomings of innovation theory and works on spillovers claiming the importance of geographical proximity for circulation of knowledge without considering organizational prerequisites to reach this impact. Having explained the relevance of permanent as well as temporary geographical proximity, we will then turn to a discussion of conflicts between cooperators within innovation processes from a theoretical as well as an empirical perspective. The empirical study is based on a case study of French biotechnology firms and will serve to prove our hypothesis that temporary geographical proximity play an important role in preventing and resolving conflicts between innovators.

Suggested Citation

  • André Torre & Delphine Gallaud, 2004. "Geographical proximity and circulation of knowledge through inter-firm cooperation," ERSA conference papers ersa04p35, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa04p35

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    Cited by:

    1. Christophe Carrincazeaux & Yannick Lung & Jérôme Vicente, 2007. "The Scientific Trajectory of the French School of Proximity: Interaction- and Institution-based Approaches to Regional Innovation Systems," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(5), pages 617-628, December.
    2. Boari, Cristina & Fioretti, Guido & Odorici, Vincenza, 2008. "Rivalry and Learning Among Clustered and Isolated Firms," MPRA Paper 13066, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Enrique Claver-Cortés & Bartolomé Marco-Lajara & Pedro Seva-Larrosa & Lorena Ruiz-Fernández & Eduardo Sánchez-García, 2019. "Analysis of the Relationship between Support Institutions and Industrial Districts in Spain: A Regional Approach," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(2), pages 1-17, January.
    4. Nii A. Addy & Laurette Dubé, 2018. "Addressing Complex Societal Problems: Enabling Multiple Dimensions of Proximity to Sustain Partnerships for Collective Impact in Quebec," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-28, March.
    5. Mikhaylov, Andrey, 2013. "Case study on the structural transformation of an international cluster: European perspective," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-8.
    6. Fiorenza Belussi & Luciano Pilotti & Silvia Rita Sedita, 2006. "Learning at the boundaries for industrial districts between exploitation of local resources and exploration of global knowledge flows," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0033, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    7. Fiorenza Belussi & Silvia Rita Sedita, 2005. "The symbiotic division of labour between heterogeneous districts. The development of ornamental horticulture in the Netherlands and Italy," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0011, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    8. Patricia van Hemert & Enno Masurel & Peter Nijkamp, 2011. "The role of knowledge sources of SMEs for innovation perception and regional innovation policy," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(3), pages 163-179, August.
    9. Karine Daniel & Nejla BEN ARFA & Sylvain AMISSE & Fanny FONTAINE, 2011. "Agri-food clusters: Does French policy match with real spatial dynamics?," ERSA conference papers ersa11p1848, European Regional Science Association.
    10. Frédéric Rychen & Jean-Benoît Zimmermann, 2009. "Industrial Clusters and the Knowledge Based Economy : from open to distributed structures ?," Working Papers halshs-00353425, HAL.

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