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Science park or innovation cluster? Similarities and differences in physical and virtual firms' agglomeration phenomena

Elisa Salvador (Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France)
Ilaria Mariotti (Polytechnic of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Fabrizio Conicella (Bioindustry Park Silvano Fumero, Colleretto Giacosa, Ivrea-Turin, Italy)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 23 September 2013




The purpose of this paper is to focus on the science park (SP) “physical” location and the innovation cluster (IC) “virtual” location, and aims at investigating: the motivations driving firms to settle in these two agglomerations; the main problems firms, belonging to the two structures, face in their growth process; similarities and differences between a “physical” and a “virtual” location; which forms of proximity (geographical, relational, social, cognitive, organizational, and institutional) play a role within the SP and the IC.


A literature review on proximity is followed by an investigation of the Bioindustry Park and the IC BioPmed in Piedmont region in Italy, through a structured questionnaire, sent between February and March 2002, to firms co-located in the park and/or member of the cluster.


From the analysis did emerge that the physical location in the park and the virtual location in the cluster might be complements rather than substitutes.

Research limitations/implications

Shortcomings like the limited number of companies interviewed, and the absence of a sample of companies exclusively co-located in the park, are observable. Additional research might corroborate the results, which are specifically valid for the two case studies.

Practical implications

The idea of understanding differences and similarities between the SP and the IC, and of investigating which proximity typologies play a role in a “physical” and in a “virtual” location, may be useful to design future policy strategies.


The originality of this paper is given by the analysis of a new phenomenon: physical and virtual agglomeration typologies, characterized by several forms of proximity enhancing knowledge diffusion.



This paper was presented at the XLIX Colloque Association de Science Régionale De Langue Française (ASRDLF), “Industrie, villes et régions dans une économie mondialisée”, Belfort, France, 9-11 July 2012: Salvador, E. won a researcher scholarship for presenting this paper at the conference.Although the paper is the result of a joint work of the three authors, the sections may be attributed as follows: Sections 1 and 2 to Mariotti, I.; Sections 3, 5 and 6 to Salvador, E.; Sections 4 and 7 to the three authors (Salvador, E., Mariotti, I. Conicella, F.).


Salvador, E., Mariotti, I. and Conicella, F. (2013), "Science park or innovation cluster? Similarities and differences in physical and virtual firms' agglomeration phenomena", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 656-674.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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