Sub-theme 25: Entrepreneurs, Networking and Clusters: A Multi-level Perspective

Cristina Boari
University of Bologna, Italy
Tom Elfring
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
F. Xavier Molina Morales
Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Spain

Call for Papers


General aim

This sub-theme is designed for the research communities interested in entrepreneurship in clusters. We encourage studies showing how the network structure in a cluster affects entrepreneurial activities and similarly how entrepreneurs are able to access and develop their networks, interact with the structure of the cluster and shape its development.



The dominant tradition in the literature is on how clusters impact entrepreneurship. Many different kinds of clusters exist in terms of stages of development and other factors, such as, degree of coordination and centralisation and openness to developments outside the cluster. This has an impact on the cluster structure, its degree of openness, its opportunity structures and the crucial resources that entrepreneurs can access (Breschi & Lissoni, 2001; Lazaric et al., 2008). The location of the entrepreneur within the cluster also matters. For example, firms in the core of a social system have a legitimation advantage, while firms in the periphery have a creativity advantage(Cattani & Ferriani, 2008). Much work needs to be done to improve our understanding of the way the clusters structure and the location of the entrepreneur within the cluster impacts entrepreneurship.

The reverse relationship, the way entrepreneurship interact and impact on clusters, has been less investigated. An increasing number of studies recognizes the role of individual firms and entrepreneurs on the transfer and development of knowledge in clusters (Giuliani & Bell, 2005; Kirkels & Duyster, 2010), on cluster formation and, in general, for territorial development (Feldman et al., 2005). What is largely missing is a clearer understanding of why and how entrepreneurs sharing the same localization can access and develop their network with very different impact at the cluster level (Aldrich & Kim, 2007). The agency of the entrepreneur and the way he/she develops network ties has an impact on the cluster structure and performance. For example, some entrepreneurs may act as brokers to communities outside the clusters (Stam & Elfring, 2008) (thereby creating a more open structure with a more favourable opportunity structure), while others are more inclined to bring communities together (thereby having a positive influence on the density of the network structure) (Obstfeld, 2005). At the cluster level we are interested to understand which are the consequences of these network strategies of heterogeneous entrepreneurs in terms of stability, renewal or destruction of local contexts (Nicolaou & Birley, 2003).

A suggested list of invited contributions:

  • In different cluster structures how do entrepreneurs access and develop their networks and with which consequences on clusters?
  • What is the role of knowledge and knowledge flows between actors in a cluster on the development of the cluster?
  • How entrepreneur's past experience and knowledge impact on the way he/she access and develop his/her network and with which impact at the cluster level?
  • How entrepreneurs, their network and clusters co-evolve?
  • Do the network structures of cluster show small world characteristics and what is the role of the agency of entrepreneurial brokers in creating small world network structures?
  • How and why can failure at the entrepreneurial level have favourable effects on the cluster level?
  • Which is the influence of large networks linking managers and firms (thanks to inter-firm mobility) and of bridging ties from imprinting (early career-stage ties) at the micro and at the cluster level?
  • Which is the role played by actors who act as supporting organizations or intermediaries in the context of interaction between entrepreneur and cluster levels?



Aldrich, Howard E. & Phillip H. Kim (2007): 'Small worlds, infinite possibilities? How social networks affect entrepreneurial team formation and search.' Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1 (1-2), pp. 147–165.
Breschi, Stefano & Francesco Lissoni (2001): 'Knowledge Spillovers and Local Innovation Systems: A Critical Survey.' Industrial and Corporate Change, 10 (4), pp. 975–100.
Cattani, Gino & Simone Ferriani (2008): ' A Core/Periphery Perspective on Individual Creative Performance: Social Networks and Cinematic Achievements in the Hollywood Film Industry.' Organization Science, 19 (6), pp. 824–844.
Feldman, Maryann P., Johanna Francis & Janet Bercovitz (2005): 'Creating a Cluster while Building a Firm: Entrepreneurs and the Formation of Industrial Clusters.' Regional Studies, 39 (1), pp. 129–141.
Giuliani, Elisa & Martin Bell (2005): 'The micro-determinants of meso-level learning and innovation: evidences from a Chilean wine cluster.' Research Policy, 34 (1), pp. 47–68.
Kirkels, Yvonne & Geert Duysters (2010): 'Brokerage in SME networks.' Research Policy, 39 (3), pp. 375–385.
Larazic, Nathalie, Christian Longhi & Catherine Thomas (2008): 'Gatekeepers of Knowledge versus Platforms of Knowledge: From Potential to Realized Absorptive Capacity.' Regional Studies, 42 (6), pp. 837–852.
Nicolaou, Nicos & Sue Birley (2003): 'Academic networks in a trichotomous categorisation of university spinouts.' Journal of Business Venturing, 18 (3), pp. 333–359.
Obstfeld, David (2005): 'Social networks, the tertius iungens orientation, and involvement in innovation.' Administrative Science Quarterly, 50 (1), pp. 100–130.
Stam, Wouter & Tom Elfring (2008): 'Entrepreneurial Orientation and New Venture Performance: The Moderating Role of Intra- and Extra-Industry Social Capital.' Academy of Management Journal, 51 (1), pp. 97–111.


Cristina Boari is Professor of Business Strategy at the University of Bologna, Italy. She was CNR Research Fellow at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Wisconsin, USA, and NATO Fellow at the Institute of Business Research of the Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan. Her research interests include rivalry, cooperation and entrepreneurship, with a special focus on industrial clusters and creative industries.
Tom Elfring is Professor in Strategy and Entrepreneurship at VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He has been visiting scholar in Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, Texas A&M, USA, and Bologna, Italy. His research interest is networks and entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship and service innovation. His work has been published in leading journals, such as 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Organization Studies' and 'Journal of Business Venturing'.
F. Xavier Molina Morales is Professor at Universitat Jaume I, Spain. His research interests include proximity, clusters, social capital and innovation. His papers have appeared in leading journals, for example 'Management', 'Business', 'Geography' and 'Planning & Development'.