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The integration of the Basque machine tool cluster into GVCs

Arantza Zubiaurre (Department of Quantitative Methods, Deusto Business School, Bilbao, Spain)
Eduardo Sisti (University of Deusto – San Sebastian Campus, San Sebastian, Spain and Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness, San Sebastian, Spain)
Jabier Retegi (Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness, San Sebastian, Spain)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Article publication date: 3 June 2020

Issue publication date: 19 June 2020



This paper aims to analyze how integration into global value chains has impacted the evolution of the Basque machine tool cluster from the 1990s to the present day.


The study was carried out in three steps. First, a comparative analysis was made of the renewal process of the 1990s and the current situation. Next, a quantitative analysis was undertaken to test whether the cluster has entered a new maturity period, and finally, qualitative data was gathered about the past and present challenges facing the companies in the cluster.


The empirical evidence of the present study shows that integration into global value chains has led to a hierarchization of the strategic trajectories and performances of the companies in the cluster. Additionally, evidence of a sustained period of new maturity and decline has been observed. The period of maturity and foreseeable challenges of the coming years were mentioned repeatedly during the interviews.

Research limitations/implications

Although the participants in the interviews were relevant individuals with a broad view of the cluster’s situation, their limited number and the lack of representation of companies that closed down during the renewal process, despite the efforts made by the authors, could be considered a limitation.

Practical implications

This paper sheds some light on the renewal/transformation period facing the cluster. Several of the main challenges and two extreme, hypothetical scenarios are discussed. The companies in the cluster will have to establish a position somewhere between those two scenarios.

Social implications

This paper presents two possible cluster transformation scenarios. The authors offer suggestions as to how to go about transforming the cluster with a view to secure a better position for dealing with future challenges.


Using quantitative and qualitative data, the paper reflects on the hierarchization and decline of the Basque machine tool cluster and provides new insight into the transformation and renewal needs of the cluster in a globally competitive environment.



Zubiaurre, A., Sisti, E. and Retegi, J. (2020), "The integration of the Basque machine tool cluster into GVCs", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 471-484.



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