Trust, learning and a firm's involvement in industrial clusters: a conceptual framework

Kuei‐Hsien Niu (California State University, Sacramento, California, USA)
Grant Miles (College of Business, Department of Management, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)
Seung Bach (California State University, Sacramento, California, USA)
Kenichiro Chinen (California State University, Sacramento, California, USA)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Publication date: 23 March 2012



The research of industrial clusters, trust, and learning can be traced back to early strategic management and organization theory. The purpose of this paper is to review past literature and offer a conceptual framework that is related to industrial clusters, trust and learning.


This study incorporates a literature review to filter key factors of industrial clusters, trust and learning by using a deductive approach to conclude a conceptual framework.


This study provides a conceptual framework which includes a firm's industrial cluster involvement, trust and learning. Based on the literature, inter‐organizational trust may be strengthened due to reduced proximity and better information flow within a cluster. Further, industrial clusters encourage co‐evolution and co‐adaptation that stimulates effective learning practices for clustering firms.

Research limitations/implications

This study uses a literature review and offers a conceptual framework to examine a firm's involvement in industrial clusters with the possible influences of trust and organizational learning. There is a need for empirical as well as statistical analysis to validate the framework and to obtain more insight.

Practical implications

Industrial clusters are widely considered a network‐based industrial system, with the aim of adapting to fast‐changing markets and technologies as an organized whole. Firms within a cluster can work together to co‐evolve for the purpose of enhancing competitiveness and entering the world market through effective learning and inter‐firm trust. As the sum of the benefit of a cluster is of greater value than each individual company or institution, whether to be involved in an industrial cluster to sustain competitiveness and enhance learning is worthy of managers' consideration.


The major contribution of this work is that it is the first attempt to produce the measures for a firm's involvement in industrial clusters for empirical tests, which are generally considered insufficient in this area of research. Further, this study offers a conceptual framework which brings cluster, trust and learning together for future empirical study.



Niu, K., Miles, G., Bach, S. and Chinen, K. (2012), "Trust, learning and a firm's involvement in industrial clusters: a conceptual framework", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 133-146.

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