Italian Industrial Districts – A Model for Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries?

INTRODUCTION

The challenges of globalizaTion require enterprises to improve productivity, to innovate, to be competitive. In this frame, industrial districts and clusters are increasingly understood as instruments to enhance innovation processes and increase competitiveness.

The growing attention towards this model is also reflected in the wider economic literature that values clusters and industrial districts as efficient policy instruments allowing high growth and socio-economic development potential. As a matter of fact, initiatives aiming at fostering industrial districts, clustering and networks of enterprises are also encouraged at an international level, thanks to cooperation policies.

In the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries (SEM) (1) also, there is growing interest in clusters. As reported in previous studies by IPEMED (2), the three countries of the Maghreb, for example, are implementing initiatives which aim at encouraging the constitution and development of groups of enterprises, organized in networks and clusters, and at creating synergies between the different economic actors of the territory.

As the Italian economic and manufacturing system is well known for being often organized in industrial districts, this study focuses on the Italian experience as an example to develop a model based on districts and to foster forms of cooperation and coproduction between Italy and SEM countries.

As a first step, we will disentangle the concept of industrial districts, focusing on the notion elaborated by Giacomo Becattini, an Italian economist and Professor at the University of Florence. According to Becattini, who studied the specific case of Italy, industrial districts are not simply identified as geographic concentrations of industries, as local communities – and thus the values, history and traditions that are shared within them – play a crucial role. Then, we will look at the definitions adopted at international and national levels in order to identify the variety of regulatory frameworks put in place to date.

As a second step, we will analyze the points of strength which made the Italian industrial districts representative of the national industrial model, based on forms of cooperation among firms and between firms and other actors of the territory.

As this organizational structure may also inspire models of cooperation and coproduction, we will review the Italian economic cooperation with SEM countries and its intervention strategy in the area.

Then, we will explore whether and under which conditions the Italian industrial districts may represent an exemplary model, in particular for SEM countries. We will then provide some insights about the key role that local institutions and the Italian cooperation system may play in promoting industrial districts development and forms of cooperation and coproduction between districts.

  1. 1  SEM countries comprise 11 countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediter- ranean region (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pales- tinian territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey). For the purpose of this study, and coherently with other IPEMED studies of the “Observatoire de la coproduc- tion”, we here consider only seven countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.
  2. 2  Pommier, P. (2014). Clusters au Maghreb: vers un modèle de cluster maghré- bin spécifique. IPEMED, Études et analyses and Pommier, P. (2019). Clusters au Maghreb : entre mondialisation et territorialisation. IPEMED, Études et analyses.

AUTHORS

Silvia NAPOLITANO, Researcher, CeSPI
Coordinator: Morgane HERVE-GANGLOFF, Project Officer, IPEMED

SUMMARY

  • I – WHAT IS MEANT BY
  • DEFINITIONS ADOPTED AT AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL p. 5
  • DEFINITIONS ADOPTED AT NATIONAL LEVELS p. 6
  • II – THE ITALIAN INDUSTRIAL DISTRICTS p.7
  • TABLE 1: Industrial districts by specialization p. 9
  • III – ITALIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH SEM COUNTRIES p. 10
  • IV – ITALIAN INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT AS A MODEL FOR SEM COUNTRIES p. 12
  • TABLE 2: Unemployment rates in SEM countries p. 13
  • V – INITIATIVES BASED ON INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT COOPERATION IMPLEMENTED TO DATE p. 14
  • VI – CONCLUSIONS
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