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Oxborrow, L (2012)
Languages: English
Types: Unknown
Objectives: The paper illustrates how the characteristics of industry clusters are revived in a new era for SME networks. It explores how a succession of industry shocks - increased global competition, recession and reduced policy support - have stimulated an innovative response in creative SMEs. The paper goes on to investigate the clustering experience of a small group of creative entrepreneurs in pursuing networked activities, with a view to identifying lessons that can be learnt to support other business-led, emergent clusters. Prior Work: Geographical industry clustering provides district advantages of pooled resources, proximity to suppliers and markets, knowledge sharing and cultural exchange (Saxenian, 1994; Piore and Sabel, 1984; Reid et al, 2008). Within a cluster, the SME’s capacity to innovate is linked to co-opetition, supportive infrastructure, vertical and horizontal interdependencies (Porter, 1998; Doeringer and Terkla, 1995) and Rosenfeld’s ‘associative economy’ (2005:5). Saxenian and Hsu (2001) illustrate how district externalities spillover across borders, while Aage and Belussi (2008) find that innovative clusters obtain competitive advantage from external-to-thedistrict influences. Approach: The research is based on a single case study of 3 micro-enterprises from Nottingham, UK, and their international collaborators. Compiled from observations, interviews and documentary analysis, the case tracks the progress of the group over eighteen months. The SMEs are embedded in a cluster of designer-maker entrepreneurs, emergent from Nottingham’s traditional textiles manufacturing sector. Results: The results build on Saxenian and Hsu (2001) and Aage and Belussi (2008) findings in which SMEs benefit from internal district externalities while also looking outside of the cluster in a process of mutual knowledge sharing. Successive industry shocks appear to have fostered collaboration and innovation (after Deoringer et al, 2009) stimulating a cycle of knowledge spill-overs that further cluster advantages. Competitive advantage is observed in the initiating firms, other SMEs within their cluster networks, associated institutions and an extended, international network of SMEs. Implications: The results reveal the opportunity for SMEs to embrace more innovative approaches to collaboration, although not without risk. Further research advocates a broader field of enquiry, and longitudinal analysis of the success and potential advantages of such cases. Value: The paper revives the debate on clustering by SMEs, providing a rich source of data to enhance the provision of business support and knowledge transfer activities in what Enright (2001) terms ‘wannabe clusters’. After Saxenian and Hsu (2001) collaborative networks have the potential to create competitive advantage for SMEs and rejuvenate traditional industry clusters.
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    • SAUNDERS, M., LEWIS, P., AND THORNHILL, A. (2003) Research Methods for Business Students, 3rd ed, Harlow: Pearson Education
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