Can a Marshallian industrial district be innovative? The case of Italy

  • Giulio Cainelli
  • Nicola De Liso
Part of the Contributions to Economics book series (CE)


The Italian manufacturing industry is characterised by a widely known positive ‘anomaly’: namely, a system made up of a large number of small-sized firms, many of which are concentrated in bounded geographical areas. These local systems of small-sized firms have been named Marshallian industrial districts (Brusco, 1982; Becattini, 1989). Scholars such as Becattini, Brusco and others have highlighted the basic features of this form of industrial organisation: (i) district firms are often specialised in traditional sectors such as textile, leather, footwear, wood, and so on (Brusco et al, 1996); (ii) district firms tend to be rather small; (iii) district firms are localised in a bounded geographical area — generally composed of five or six municipalities; (iv) the physical proximity between firms engenders positive spillovers which concern the diffusion of information, knowledge and ideas — also because of skilled workers moving from one firm to another; (v) the role played by intentional innovative effort is very limited. The latter feature has led to the idea that industrial districts are technologically laggard and suffer disadvantages in generating technological innovation. In other words, according to this view, district firms are not able to generate a sufficient stream of innovative activities.


Tacit Knowledge Product Innovation Knowledge Spillover Innovative Activity Industrial District 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arrow K. (1962), “The Economic Implications of Learning-by-Doing, Review of Economic Studies, vol. 29, pp. 155–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becattini G. (1989), “Sectors and/or Districts: Some Remarks on the Conceptual Foundations of Industrial Economics”, in: Goodman E., Bamford J. (Eds.), Small Firms and Industrial Districts in Italy, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  3. Becattini G. (1990), “The Marshallian Industrial District as a Socioeconomic Notion”, in: Pyke F., Becattini G., Sengenberger W. (Eds.), Industrial Districts and Inter-firm Co-operation in Italy, International Institute for Labour Studies, Geneva.Google Scholar
  4. Becattini G., Bellandi M., Dei Ottati G., Sforzi F. (2003), From Industrial Districts to Local Development, Elgar, Cheltenham.Google Scholar
  5. Best M. (1990), The New Competition, Polity Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  6. Black S., Lynch L. M. (2000), “What’s Driving the New Economy: the Benefits of Workplace Innovation”, NBER Working Papers, n. 7479.Google Scholar
  7. Black S., Lynch L.M. (2001), “How to Compete: the Impact of Workplace Practises and Information Technology on Productivity”, Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 83, pp. 434–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowden R J.,Turkington D. A. (1984), Instrumental Variables, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York.Google Scholar
  9. Brioschi F., Brioschi M. S., Cainelli G. (2002), “From the Industrial District to the District Group. An Insight into the Evolution of Local Capitalism in Italy”, Regional Studies, vol. 36, n. 9, pp. 1037–1052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brusco S., Sabel C. F. (1981), “Artisan Production and Economic Growth”, in: Wilkinson F. (Ed.), The Dynamics of Labour Market Segmentation, Academy Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brusco S. (1982), “The Emilian Model: Productive Decentralisation and Social Integration”, Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 6, pp. 167–184.Google Scholar
  12. Brusco S. (1986), “Small Firms and Industrial Districts: the Experience of Italy”, in: Keeble D., Wever E. (Eds), New Firms and Regional Development in Europe, Croom Helm, London.Google Scholar
  13. Brusco S., Cainelli G., Forni F., Franchi M., Malusardi A., Righetti R. (1996), “The Evolution of Industrial Districts in Emilia-Romagna”, in: Cossentino F., Pyke F., Sengenberger W. (Eds.), Local and Regional Response to Global Pressure: the Case of Italy and Its Industrial Districts, International Labour Office, Geneva.Google Scholar
  14. Cainelli G, Nuti F. (1996) “Directions of Change in Italy’s Manufacturing Industrial Districts. The Case of the Emilian Footwear Districts of Fusignano and San Mauro Pascoli”, Journal of Industry Studies, n. 2, pp. 105–118, 1996.Google Scholar
  15. Cainelli G., De Liso N., Monducci R., Perani G. (2001), “Technological Innovation and Firm Performance in Italian Traditional Manufacturing Sectors”, in: Innovation and Enterprise Creation, Innovation Papers n. 18, European Commission.Google Scholar
  16. Caroli E., Van Reenen J. (2001), “Skill Biased Organisational Change? Evidence from a Panel of British and French Establishments, Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 116, pp. 1449–1492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Contini B., Revelli R., Cuneo S. (1992), “Productivity and Imperfect Competition”, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, vol. 18, pp. 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Liso N., Filatrella G., Weaver N. (2001), “On Endogenous Growth and Increasing Returns: Modeling Learning-by-Doing and the Division of Labour”, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, vol. 46, pp. 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ISTAT (1997), I Sistemi locali del lavoro 1991, Argomenti n. 10, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Roma.Google Scholar
  20. Langlois R., Robertson P.L. (1995), Firms, Markets and Economic Change. A Dynamic Theory of Business Institutions, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  21. Marx K. (1867, Repr. 1976), Capital, Vol. I, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  22. Polanyi M. (1983), The Tacit Dimension, Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass.Google Scholar
  23. Rosenberg N. (1982), Inside the Black Box: Technology and Economics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  24. Schumpeter J.A. (1939), Business Cycles, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  25. Schumpeter J.A. (1943), Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, Allen & Unwin, London.Google Scholar
  26. Signorini L. F. (1994), “The Price of Prato, or Measuring the Industrial District Effects”, Papers in Regional Science, vol. 73, pp. 369–392.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giulio Cainelli
    • 1
  • Nicola De Liso
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Bari and CERIS-DSENational Research CouncilMilanItaly
  2. 2.University of LecceLecceItaly

Personalised recommendations