The Role of Interactive Learning to Close the “Innovation Gap” in SMEBased Local Economies: A Furniture Cluster in the Basque Country and its Key Policy Implications

Authors: Parrilli, M., Aranguren, M.J. and Larrea, M.

Journal: European Planning Studies

Volume: 18

Issue: 3

Pages: 351-370

Publisher: Taylor and Francis

ISSN: 1469-5944

DOI: 10.1080/09654310903497660

This paper identifies an “innovation gap” in the (in)efficient relation between innovation structures and production systems in SME-based economies and, by elucidating an implicit aspect of key theoretical contributions from Lundvall and Cooke, among others, sets the basis for a policy focus that may help reducing those margins of inefficiency. In this work, we identify three interdependent drivers of innovation: the “critical mass” of firms in a specific geographical location; the formation of “organizations” devoted to the creation and diffusion of knowledge and innovations; the ignition of “learning processes” within the production system that help catalyse significant innovations within the local economy. We suggest that the importance of processes of codified knowledge flows needs to be complemented by interactive flows of tacit knowledge that help overcoming the “innovation gap” that often exists between firms and knowledge institutions. Since this gap represents the inefficiency of the innovation structures, we suggest that it should be targeted by policy-makers and business associations as a central issue for innovation promotion through actions that intensify interactions and learning processes through bottom-up initiatives. These elements are analysed in a furniture cluster in the Basque Country and are highlighted on the basis of successful micro-territorial experiences.

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