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 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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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

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