On this case study, the aim was to understand the mechanisms for knowledge acquisition and its transformation in innovation performance by eight Portuguese firms of the moulds industrial sector. Emphasis was put on the study of interactions between several external or internal elements of the system. The two main research questions were: (1) If innovation reflects learning (Lundvall, 1992), how do firms learn, how do firms transpose learning, and are able to innovate? (2) What are the reasons for the innovative performance of the moulds sector in Portugal? The study resulted in the creation and proposal of an observation model of the moulds sector, relative to the type of relations that exist between the firms and between firms and other institutions, which permits systematization and generalisation in the analysis of the innovative dynamics of this sector. The innovative performance of the sector is also related with several of its intrinsic characteristics. By studying the firms, and the existing interactions, characteristics that are peculiar to the Italian industrial districts were noticed. This sector possesses some strong characteristics of industrial districts that have influenced and conditioned its innovative performance.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Industrial District: A form of industrial organization characterized by a geographic concentration of SMEs and some large enterprises, differently but highly specialized in several phases of the process, actively involved in the production of a distinctive product or family of products through cooperative and competitive relations.
Explicit Knowledge: Information codified in publications, patents, and other sources.
Core Competencies: Knowledge or know-how that is specific and on which the competitive advantage of the firm is built.
National System of Innovation: The network of institutions in the public and private sectors, whose activities and interactions initiate, import, modify, and diffuse new technologies.
Interactive Model of Innovation: A theory that holds that innovation is a process of discovery which proceeds in a complex non-linear sequence of phases. In this view, innovation can begin in any phase of the process, and it does not progresses sequentially through definite stages, but rather oscillates between conception, product development, production, and marketing, as it encounters bottlenecks that are only solvable if there is a return to a previous phase.
Tacit Knowledge: Know-how exchanged through informal channels.