Linking learning with governance in networks and clusters: key issues for analysis and policy

Authors: Parrilli, M. and Sacchetti, S.

Journal: Entrepreneurship and Regional Development

Volume: 20

Issue: 4

Pages: 387-408

Publisher: Routledge

ISSN: 1464-5114

DOI: 10.1080/08985620801886463

In this paper we analyse the relationship between governance and learning in clusters and networks. In particular, we see these two key elements as interdependent, suggesting that, under particular circumstances, such interdependence may drive clusters and networks towards a dynamic development trajectory. A pure ‘governance perspective’ makes the development of any locality dependent on the system of powers which exists within the locality or across the global value chain. In parallel, a pure ‘competence-based approach’ focuses mainly on the capabilities of actors to learn and undertake activities. In contrast, we open the prospects for an interdependent relation that may change the actual competences of actors as well as the governance settings and dynamics in networks and clusters. When supported by public policies, the learning process may have the potential to modify the governance environment. Simultaneously, the learning process is intrinsically influenced by economic power, which may seriously affect the development prospects of clusters and networks. This is why an intertwined consideration of both aspects is necessary to promote specific approaches to learning and to design appropriate policies. In this paper we offer two preliminary case studies to clarify some of these dynamics: the first taken from the computers cluster in Costa Rica and the second from an Italian bio-pharmaceutical firm and its production network. The first case study refers to the software cluster that was created from scratch in Costa Rica thanks to an enlightened government policy in coordination with new local enterprises and an important foreign direct investor; while the second reflects on the ability of an individual company to create a network of relationships with large transnational companies in order to acquire new competences without falling into a subordinate position with respect to its larger partners.

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