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Building Global Knowledge Pipelines - The Role of Temporary Clusters

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Business people and professionals come together regularly at trade fairs, exhibitions, conventions,congresses, and conferences. Here, their latest and most advanced findings, inventions and productsare on display to be evaluated by customers and suppliers, as well as by peers and competitors.Participation in events like these helps firms to identify the current market frontier, take stock ofrelative competitive positions and form future plans. Such events exhibit many of the characteristicsascribed to permanent spatial clusters, albeit in a temporary and intensified form. These short-livedhotspots of intense knowledge exchange, network building and idea generation can thus be seen astemporary clusters. The present paper compares temporary clusters with permanent clusters andother types of inter-firm interactions. If regular participation in temporary clusters can satisfy afirm’s need to learn through interaction with suppliers, customers, peers and rivals, why is thephenomenon of permanent spatial clustering of similar and related economic activity so pervasive?The answer, it is claimed, lies in the restrictions imposed upon economic activity when knowledge and ideas are transformed into valuable products and services. The paper sheds new light on howinteraction among firms in current clusters coincides with knowledge-intensive pipelines betweenfirms in different regions or clusters. In doing so, it offers a novel way of understanding how interfirmknowledge relationships are organized spatially and temporally.

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Peter Maskell, Harald Bathelt, Anders Malmberg

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