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Creating Advantage: On the complexity of industrial knowledge formation in the knowledge-based economy
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Dynamics. (Industriell Dynamik)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2932-4335
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Knowledge as a resource and knowledge formation as a process are seen as central to providing nations and regions as well as firms with a competitive advantage. This is captured by the view that the economic and industrial landscape is currently undergoing a transformation towards a knowledge-based economy. This dissertation engages with two views that have gained great influence in the discussions – in academia as well as in policy – on this industrial transformation. This concerns the view on which types of knowledge formation processes that are seen to actually provide a competitive advantage. There is today a prevailing tendency to connect the creation of competitive advantage to research-intensive, so-called high-tech, activities. It also concerns the view on where these knowledge formation processes take place. Much inspired by innovative and high-tech regions, competitive advantage is often closely associated with the role of geographical proximity for knowledge formation. The aim of this dissertation is to develop our understanding of the role of those knowledge formation processes that currently fall outside what is captured by these prevailing views. Three research questions are addressed. First, what is the role of non-research intensive knowledge formation processes in the creation of competitive advantage? Second, how can knowledge formation processes connected to the creation of regional competitive advantage be promoted? Third, what is the role of proximity in knowledge formation processes in the creation of competitive advantage? A qualitative case study approach is adopted for the empirical part of the research, consisting of one case study where low- and medium-tech industrial activities are studied and one case study where the regional dimension of knowledge formation is studied. Personal interviews constitute the major part of the empirical material. The research findings give evidence that reveals shortcomings in theory as well as in policy practice in regards both these prevailing views. It is shown that low- and medium-tech activities are still highly relevant, not only on their own but for the industry as a whole. Further, current forces of globalisation call for an approach to regional development that includes a dual focus of strengthening regional connections as well as facilitating and promoting extra-regional connections. This is particularly important in small, open economies such as Sweden. Further, the finings are in line with those requesting a multidimensional approach to the concept of proximity – one that regards proximity not only as a concept with geographical connotation but also with reference to proximity in context, cognition or value-systems. The dissertation suggests instead that an approach to industrial activities that assumes that those firms, regions and countries that can manage complex knowledge formation processes may develop competitive advantages. It is this ability to achieve and manage sticky processes in a slippery world that is essential for the creation of competitive advantage. And we are more likely to identify these particular competitive advantages on the firm level than on the industry level. Within every industry, there are firms that can manage more suitable ‘bundles’ of knowledge bases, network connections etc, which enable them to adapt at a lesser cost (costs can for instance be measured in terms of efforts, money or time) than other firms within the same industry. This is important to acknowledge – in policy as well as in theory – in order to not exclude important parts of what contributes to industrial competitive advantage in the knowledge-based economy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2009. , vii, 52 p.
Series
Trita-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2009:05
Keyword [en]
knowledge formation, competitive advantage, complexity, proximity, regional innovation systems policy, low- and medium-technology industries
National Category
Other Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10928ISBN: 978-91-7415-333-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-10928DiVA: diva2:232318
Public defence
2009-06-11, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100715Available from: 2009-08-28 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2010-07-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Will they survive? – four Swedish low-tech firms facing the knowledge economy.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Will they survive? – four Swedish low-tech firms facing the knowledge economy.
2005 (English)In: Low-Tech Innovation in the Knowledge Economy, Frankfurt am Mein: Peter Lang , 2005, 285-311 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Frankfurt am Mein: Peter Lang, 2005
National Category
Other Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10925 (URN)3-631-53682-3 (ISBN)
Note

QC 20100715

Available from: 2009-08-21 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2016-08-18Bibliographically approved
2. From Grounded Skills to Creativity: On the Transformation of Mining Regions in the Knowledge Economy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>From Grounded Skills to Creativity: On the Transformation of Mining Regions in the Knowledge Economy
2006 (English)In: Journal of Industrial Relations, ISSN 0022-1856, E-ISSN 1472-9296, Vol. 48, no 5, 615-627 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this article is to explore the role of creativity for high-performance innovative activity. It is our conjecture that this approach enables us to go beyond the dominant science-focus of the present discourse on the transformation to a knowledge-based society. In line with the first part of the Schumpeterian definition of innovation: creative combination, the ability to be creative draws on dispersed - new and old, external and internal, scientific and non-scientific - knowledge sources. The article is primarily a theoretical and conceptual exercise: however, we relate our discussions to empirical findings from mature manufacturing industries. The discussions are also related to the current industrial transformation in the Iron Ore Belt in Sweden, and the possible challenges this entails for a region characterized by a strong tradition of large-firm domination and natural resource-based industry. In the current transformation, this region must find new ways to both encourage and support economic and technological development - something which may find its base not only in scientific skills in a narrow sense, but also in new attitudes to industrial creativity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Sage Publications, 2006
Keyword
creativity, innovation, knowledge economy, skills
National Category
Economics and Business Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10923 (URN)10.1177/0022185606070108 (DOI)
Note

QC 20100715

Available from: 2009-08-21 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
3. Promoting regional innovation systems in a global context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Promoting regional innovation systems in a global context
2009 (English)In: Industry and Innovation, ISSN 1366-2716, E-ISSN 1469-8390, Vol. 16, no 1, 123-139 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Ever since the innovation systems (IS) concept was coined in the late 1980s, it has been accepted as a mechanism of economic and technological development in policy circles. This recognition follows a change in our understanding of the characteristics of the innovation process as a non-linear process and having a systemic character. This changed understanding is also reflected in the movement in policy focus from science and technology (S&T) policy towards innovation policy. In recent years, the IS approach has been downscaled from the national level (NIS) to the regional level (RIS), a system's level that has gained the interest of policy makers. There are many rationales for this regionalization of innovation policy. However, as this paper points out, there are several challenges to implement an IS policy on the regional level. Based on a case study of a Swedish regional policy programme, this paper highlights (some of) the challenges related to defining the regional system's domain, implementing functional regions and securing sufficient regional knowledge infrastructure. This paper argues that when the IS approach is put into policy practice and downscaled to the regional level, it stands the risk of losing its strength as a tool for coping with the structural problems connected to innovation and globalization. Based on the identified challenges, the paper is concluded with a number of more general policy implications for IS-based policies with regional intentions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2009
Keyword
Innovation systems; regional innovation systems; innovation policy; regionalization of innovation policy
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10924 (URN)10.1080/13662710902728142 (DOI)000264846700007 ()2-s2.0-70350217435 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20100715

Available from: 2009-08-21 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
4. Between the regional and the global: regional innovation systems policy and industrial knowledge formation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Between the regional and the global: regional innovation systems policy and industrial knowledge formation
2012 (English)In: Innovation Governance in an open Economy: Shaping Regional Nodes in a Globalized world / [ed] Rickne, A, Laestadius, S and Etzkowitz, 2012Chapter in book (Refereed)
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10926 (URN)978-0-415-50493-5 (ISBN)
Note

QC 20100715

Available from: 2009-08-21 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2013-01-11Bibliographically approved
5. Globalisation of corporate knowledge formation: enabling proximity through organisational coordination mechanisms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Globalisation of corporate knowledge formation: enabling proximity through organisational coordination mechanisms
(English)In: Industry and Innovation, ISSN 1366-2716, E-ISSN 1469-8390Article in journal (Refereed) In press
Abstract [en]

This paper connects to a stream of literature that emphasises the importance of effective utilization of dispersed knowledge in the MNC organisation. It also connects to the recent developments of the proximity concept, primarily driven by economic geographers. The paper seeks to contribute further to our understanding of the relationship between proximity and the management of corporate knowledge formation. In particular, the intention is to review the organisational coordination mechanisms and their potential to create additional dimensions of proximity than the geographical proximity that comes with co-location of corporate activities. From both theory and empirical studies it can be concluded that proximity matters, also in long-distance relationships. However, the findings in this study disagree with the strong focus on (permanent) geographical proximity. Drawing on the experiences of distributed R&D from a case study of a Swedish-based multinational company, the paper points to the role of coordination mechanisms as an important tool to create other dimensions of proximity in the distributed organisation.

Keyword
knowledge formation, proximity, coordination mechanisms
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10927 (URN)
Note
QC 20100715Available from: 2009-08-21 Created: 2009-08-21 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved

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