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Territorial Clustering & Innovative Milieux: Technology-based Firms in the Cambridge & Oxford Regions

Aims & objectives

This project investigated the extent, nature and importance of technological, information and other linkages between firms themselves and between firms, research institutions and other private and public sector bodies in the Cambridge and Oxford regions and addressed the question of how far these territorial clusters reflect the core characteristics of an 'innovative milieu', that is, a form of networking characterised both by vertical subcontracting chains and horizontal linkages with the providers of financial, technical, fashion, design, marketing and training services and advice. The research involved the creation of a dataset of high-technology firms in the Cambridge and Oxford regions, using data from the Cambridgeshire County Council’s Research Group, Oxford Trust and British Telecom. Analysis of these databases was followed by face to face interviews with a stratified random sample of 100 high-technology firms, 50 from each region, using a detailed semi-structured questionnaire devised in consultation with a Business Users Group established by the project and including experts such as the Director of the St John's Innovation Centre, Cambrid

Results

A key finding was that both the Oxford and Cambridge systems rely upon particular conditions, in part a particular socio-cultural atmosphere, for the establishment of inter-firm linkages, especially where relationships of trust and cooperation are important. Various forms of local networking are identified as important for firm development in the two regions, with inter-firm links, university-firm links, and links resulting from labour mobility as the most important of these. Labour mobility is an increasingly important source of networking especially as regards information transfer. A major original finding of the research was that those firms that develop strong local links are typically those that also develop strong global links. 'Local embeddedness' may well thus be important in sustaining firm technological innovation and leadership, including leadership in global markets.

Finally, the research identified common general characteristics of the two regional SME clusters, notably sectoral diversity, R&D specialisation, considerable indigenous SME employment growth during the 1990s, frequent horizontal links, reliance on personal relationships, and a particular mixture of competition and collaboration. However, it also stressed that how these features manifest themselves in each cluster reflects path dependency and local competences; in short, history matters.

This project investigated the extent, nature and importance of local inter-firm and inter-organisational networks and relationships involving research-intensive firms in the Cambridge and Oxford regions, and addressed the question of how far the core characteristics of the 'innovative milieu' apply to these clusters. It assessed the extent of local new firm spin-offs and research and managerial staff recruitment, the reasons for firm's choice of location, and the role and significance of links with each area's dominant university. At the same time, it also measured the extent and importance of wider national and global links and networking, and investigated the impacts on local SMEs of large external national and multi-national firms, through mechanisms such as acquisitions and takeover. A central question was the extent to which, by the late 1990s, the firm clusters in these two regions were characterised by active processes of 'collective learning', diffusion and development of new knowledge and technological innovations.

50 technology firms in each of the Cambridge and Oxford regions were interviewed using a detailed semi-structured questionnaire devised in consultation with a Business Users Group established by the project.

Dates of survey: The survey was carried out in 1995.

Keeble, D. and Wilkinson, F. (eds.) (2000) High-Technology Clusters, Networking and Collective Learning in Europe (Aldershot: Ashgate).

Keeble, D. and Lawson, C. (1998) 'Collective Learning Processes, Networking and 'Institutional Thickness' in the Cambridge Region', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) Collective Learning Processes and Knowledge Development in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Goteborg European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Keeble, D. and Moore, B. (1997) 'University and Technology-Intensive SME Research Collaboration, Spin-offs and Recruitment in the Cambridge Region', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) University Research Links and Spin-Offs in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Munich European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1997) 'Internationalisation Processes and Networking in Technology-Intensive Small Firms', in Ram, M., Smallbone, D. and Deakins, D. (eds.) Small Firms: Enterprising Futures, Paul Chapman, London

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1996) 'Internationalisation Processes and Networking in Technology-Intensive Small Firms', in Institute of Small Business Affairs, (ed.) Enterprising Futures Conference Proceedings, UCE Business School, Birmingham

Lawson, C. (1997) 'Local Inter-Firm Networking by High-Technology Firms in the Cambridge Region', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) Networks, Links and Large Firm Impacts on the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Barcelona European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Lawson, C., Moore, B., Keeble, D. Lawton Smith, H. and Wilkinson, F. (1998) 'Inter-Firm Links between Regionally-Clustered High-Technology SMEs: A Comparison of Cambridge and Oxford Innovation Networks', in During, R. and Oakey, R. (eds.) New Technology-Based Firms in the 1990s, Volume 4, Paul Chapman, London.

Lawton Smith, H. (1996) 'The Institutional Framework in Oxfordshire', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) Regional Institutional and Policy Frameworks for High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Sophia-Antipolis European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Lawton Smith, H. (1997) 'Inter-Firm Networks in Oxfordshire', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) Networks, Links and Large Firm Impacts on the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Barcelona European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Lawton Smith, H. (1997) 'University and Public Sector Research Laboratory Links and Technology Transfer in the Oxford Region', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) University Research Links and Spin-Offs in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Munich European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Lawton Smith, H. (1998) 'Innovation Systems and 'Local Difficulties': The Oxfordshire Experience' in Z. Acs (ed) Regional Innovation and Global Change Pinter

Lawton Smith, H. (1998) 'Institutionalisation of Informal Networking and 'Collective Learning' in the Oxfordshire High-Technology Economy', in D. Keeble and C. Lawson (eds) Collective Learning Processes and Knowledge Development in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Goteborg European Network Meeting report, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge

Lawton Smith, H. and de Bernardy, M. (2000) 'University and Public Research Institute Links with Regional High-Technology SMEs', Ch. 4 in Keeble, D. and Wilkinson, F. (eds) (2000) High-Technology Clusters, Networking and Collective Learning in Europe, (Aldershot, Ashgate), 90-117

Lawton Smith, H., Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1999) 'Contrasting Regional Innovation Systems in Oxford and Cambridge', in De La Mothe, J. and Pacquet G. (eds.) Local and Regional Systems of Innovation, Kluwer Academic Publishers

Keeble, D. Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1998) 'Internationalisation Processes, Networking and Local Embeddedness in Technology-Intensive Small Firms', Small Business Economics, 11, 4, 372-342

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1999) 'Collective Learning Processes, Networking and 'Institutional Thickness' in the Cambridge Region', Regional Studies, 33, 4, 319-332

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H. Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (2001) 'Technology transfer in two elite locations: the Oxford and Cambridge regions' Tijdschrift Voor Economiche en Sociale Geographie, 1, 88-99

Keeble, D. and Wilkinson, F. (1999) 'Collective learning and knowledge development in the evolution of regional clusters of high technology SMEs in Europe' Regional Studies, 33: 295-303.

Lawton Smith, H. (1998) 'Barriers' to Technology Transfer: Local Impediments in Oxfordshire' Environment and Planning C, 16, 4, 433-488

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H. Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1997) 'Internationalisation Processes, Networking and Local Embeddedness in Technology-Intensive Small Firms' CBR Working Paper No. 53

Keeble, D., Lawson, C., Lawton Smith, H., Moore, B. and Wilkinson, F. (1998) 'Collective Learning Processes and Inter-Firm Networking in Innovative High-Technology Regions', CBR Working Paper No. 86

Lawson, C. (1997) 'Territorial Clustering and High Technology Innovation: From Industrial Districts to Innovative Milieux', CBR Working Paper No. 54

Lawson, C., Moore, B., Keeble, D. Lawton Smith, H. and Wilkinson, F. (1997) 'Inter-Firm Links between Regionally-Clustered High-Technology SMEs: A Comparison of Cambridge and Oxford Innovation Networks', CBR Working Paper No. 65

Lawson, C., Wilkinson, F., Keeble, D., Lawton Smith, H. and Moore, B. (1997) 'Innovative Behaviour of Technology-Based SMEs', CBR March, Mimeo

Lawton Smith, H. (1997) 'Barriers to Technology Transfer: Local Impediments in Oxfordshire', CBR Working Paper No. 69

Keeble, D and Wilkinson, F (eds), (1999), Networking and Collective Learning in Regionally-Clustered High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Final Report to DG XII of the European Commission, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Cambridge, 144 pp

Keeble, D. and Lawson, C. (eds) (1996) Regional Institutional and Policy Frameworks for High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Report on Presentations and Discussions, Sophia-Antipolis Meeting of the TSER European Network, September 27-28, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Cambridge, 72 pp

Keeble, D. and Lawson, C. (eds) (1997) Networks, Links and Large Firm Impacts on the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Report on Presentations and Discussions, Barcelona Meeting of the TSER European Network, October 17-18, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Cambridge, 136 pp

Keeble, D. and Lawson, C. (eds) (1997) University Research Links and Spin-offs in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Report on Presentations and Discussions, Munich Meeting of the TSER European Network, February 28-March 1, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Cambridge, 131 pp

Keeble, D. and Lawson, C. (eds) (1998) Collective Learning Processes and Knowledge Development in the Evolution of Regional Clusters of High-Technology SMEs in Europe, Goteborg Meeting of the TSER European Network, April 17-18, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Cambridge, 143 pp

The CBR has produced a number of surveys. View our survey output

Principal investigators

Barry Moore
David Keeble
Frank Wilkinson
Clive Lawson
Elizabeth Garnsey
Helen Lawton-Smith (University of Oxford)
Diana Day

Project status

Completed