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Industry 4.0 and clusters: complementaries or substitutes in firm’s knowledge creation?

Nils Grashof (Centre for Regional and Innovation Economics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)
Alexander Kopka (Centre for Regional and Innovation Economics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)
Colin Wessendorf (Centre for Regional and Innovation Economics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)
Dirk Fornahl (Centre for Regional and Innovation Economics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)

Competitiveness Review

ISSN: 1059-5422

Article publication date: 15 June 2020

Issue publication date: 17 January 2021

361

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to show the interaction effects between clusters and cluster-specific attributes and the industrial internet of things (IoT) knowledge of a firm on the innovativeness of firms. Cluster theory and the concept of key enabling technologies are linked to test their effect on a firm’s incremental and radical knowledge generation.

Design/methodology/approach

Quantitative approach at the firm-level. By combining several data sources (e.g. ORBIS, PATSTAT and German subsidy catalogue) the paper relies on a unique database encompassing 8,347 firms in Germany. Ordinary least squares (OLS)-regression techniques are used for data analysis.

Findings

Industrial IoT is an important driver of radical patents, mediated positively by firm size. For incremental knowledge, a substitution effect occurs between a cluster and IoT effects, which is bigger for larger firms and dependent on cluster attributes and firms’ outside connections.

Research limitations/implications

The paper opens up new research paths considering long-term disruptive effects of the industrial IoT compared to short-term effects on the innovativeness of firms within clusters. Additionally, it enables further research enriching the discussion about cluster attributes and how these affect ongoing processes.

Practical implications

Linking cluster theory and policy with Industry 4.0 raises awareness for being considerate in terms of funding and scrutinising one-size-fits-all approaches.

Originality/value

Connecting the concepts of a cluster and advanced manufacturing technologies as a proxy for industrial IoT, specifically focussing on both radical and incremental innovations is a new approach. Especially, taking into account the interaction effects between cluster attributes and the influence of industrial IoT on the innovativeness of firms.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees for useful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Furthermore, the author [NG] gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research [grant number 03INTBF05A]. The author [CW] greatfully acknowledges financial support by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) [grantnumber 16IFI016].

Citation

Grashof, N., Kopka, A., Wessendorf, C. and Fornahl, D. (2021), "Industry 4.0 and clusters: complementaries or substitutes in firm’s knowledge creation?", Competitiveness Review, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 83-105. https://doi.org/10.1108/CR-12-2019-0162

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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