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Title: The interplay between competition and co-operation and the effect on innovation in mature industry clusters : a case study of the North Staffordshire ceramics industry, tableware and giftware sector
Author: Limbrick, Lorraine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 0880
Awarding Body: Staffordshire University
Current Institution: Staffordshire University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the relationship between competition and co-operation and identifies how the interplay between the two can affect innovation in industry clusters. The guiding theories underpinning this thesis are drawn from key theories of industry clusters and cluster competitive advantage, the starting point for which is Michael Porter’s (1990) theory of national/regional competitive advantage. From Porter’s studies of industry clusters two key elements are cited as being crucial to the success or failure of an industry cluster, they are: the roles of ‘co-operation’ and ‘competition’. Since Porter’s original studies, many cluster theories have been developed to examine and explain the roles of co-operation (1) and competition (2) and their effects on innovation (3) within industry clusters (e.g., Audretsch and Feldman, 1996; Baptista and Swann, 1998; Audretsch, 2000; Tallman et al., 2004; Lorentzen, 2008). Other recent studies have contended that co-operation and competition vary across the different stages of the industry life-cycle (4) (e.g., Klepper, 1996; Swann et al., 1998; Brenner, 2005; Belussi and Sedita, 2009; Potter and Watts, 2010, 2014). Consequently, the theoretical framework for this research study is drawn primarily from these four key themes (and related sub-themes), it combines and synthesises key elements of cluster theories from researchers in such fields as Industrial Districts, Production Systems, Economic Geography, and Industry Life-cycle. In addition, several other related theories are referred to, where relevant, e.g. dominant firm theory and transaction cost theory. These theories, whilst not core to the research, are included to clarify terminology and concepts. A critical-realism paradigm is the core philosophical stance taken for this research study. A mixed/multi methods approach, that includes both deductive and inductive elements, is applied throughout the research process. Thus, this research study both tests and builds theory. To achieve the research objectives, three unique pieces of research are undertaken that, when integrated together, give important insights into the competitive advantage of the Stoke-on-Trent Ceramics Cluster (tableware and giftware sector). The first chapter of the empirical findings presents results of a longitudinal study of the cluster’s evolution between 1960 and 2016. The empirical findings clearly identify that a prolonged period of consolidation occurred in the cluster between 1960 and 2010. Moreover, the emergence, pattern of acquisitions and growth of the Cluster’s two once dominant firms, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton, are established. The second empirical chapter presents a historic analysis of co-operative behaviours in the cluster between 1700 and 2016. The empirical findings indicate that cluster firms have a long history of minimal co-operation with each other, and with other firms and institutions. The research findings suggest several reasons that may explain the un-cooperative culture apparent in the cluster. The empirical evidence also suggests that cluster firms may be starting to co-operate more, possibly due to changes in local governance, i.e. the balance of power and control has shifted since the decline of Wedgwood and Doulton. The final empirical chapter presents unique data from a questionnaire and interview survey into innovation and co-operation in the cluster between 2010 and 2016. The results indicate that strong innovative activity is evident in the cluster. However, co-operative activity appears to be relatively weak. The results also suggest that there are many opportunities for cluster firms to co-operate across a range of industry issues. Overall, the empirical findings indicate that the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics cluster is a relatively successful industry cluster but it could be stronger. Although the empirical results supported several of the research propositions, in some areas the findings did not clearly map to either the maintained, or alternative, propositions, but positioned the Stoke-on-Trent cluster somewhere between the two. Consequently, alternative propositions that more closely fitted the apparent reality of the situation are presented in the conclusions chapter. This thesis has contributed to knowledge by further developing the theory on industry clusters, i.e. through testing and further developing cluster theories a new framework for cluster analysis has been constructed. This new framework is based on Arikan’s original model (see chapter 2, Figure 2.2), which is aimed at identifying knowledge creating opportunities, but was further developed by the researcher to include other factors identified in the various literatures as important to knowledge creation and competitive advantage (see chapter 2, Figure 2.4 for an extension of Arikan’s original model). After application to the SOT cluster, the model was developed even further to include a new determinant, ‘factors affecting the propensity to co-operate’. The new determinant examines other historical antecedents not included in Arikan’s original model. Figure 7.1 Presents the new model for analysing industry clusters. Thus, the research makes a significant contribution to extant literature on clusters, industrial districts, networks and governance by providing new knowledge and new perspectives on the importance of co-operation in industry clusters. The empirical findings make a further contribution to cluster theory in that they develop the literature on dominant firm effects on the competitive advantage of clusters, an area that is somewhat under-reported in the extant literature. Finally, the research also contributes to the theory on evolutionary economics through the findings of the longitudinal study into the Stoke-on-Trent ceramic cluster’s evolution.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available