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Title: The role of personal networks for knowledge flows in the Cambridge IT cluster
Author: Huber, F.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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It is a widespread assumption in economic geography, regional studies and the economics of innovation that firms located in clusters benefit from personal knowledge networks and technological knowledge spillovers. However, it remains unclear to what extent these benefits actually occur. Furthermore, the spatial dimensions of knowledge networks and the role of different forms of proximity remain underexplored. This thesis addresses these issues by examining the role of personal knowledge networks for research and development (R&D) workers in the Cambridge Information Technology Cluster. The empirical results are based on interviews and a survey with 105 R&D workers in 46 innovation-based firms in the greater Cambridge region, UK. This thesis systematically examines to what extent, how and why different types of extra-firm personal relations lead to knowledge flows. The analysis shows the reasons why extra-firm personal knowledge networks are not important for the work of many R&D workers, in particular non-managerial engineers and developers. Furthermore, the results reveal the social mechanisms of personal knowledge networks. This illustrates that the role of spatial proximity varies for the formation of networks, the maintenance of network relations, and the actual knowledge flows through networks. Overall, the results challenge widespread assumptions in economic geography. They show that most R&D workers have only few local personal knowledge contacts and local technological knowledge spillovers seem very limited. Counter to much of the existing theory, in one of the most innovative and successful high-technology regions in Europe, the vast majority of R&D workers do not perceive a real knowledge benefit from being located next to many innovative firms in the same sector for their work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available