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Clusters: A Possible Alternative to KTPs for Improving Design Knowledge?

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Over recent years, there has been a number of national and regional initiatives to develop design in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the United Kingdom. Design-led manufacturing is promoted as a means by which SMEs in traditional industries can combat the threat of low cost overseas labour and compete successfully in the global marketplace. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are seen as one method of implementing major change. However, there are other initiatives, one of which is the development of clusters of companies and other interested parties in various industrial sectors. This paper considers one example of cluster policy as it applies to the furniture industry in the West Midlands region of the UK. It describes the experience of developing the network, under the banner of Furniture West Midlands (FWM). By drawing on previous networking literature and national and regional policy, their applicability to FWM's objectives and implementation is explored. Additionally, the efficacy of clusters and networks as a means of disseminating and increasing design knowledge in SMEs is investigated. Finally, the paper presents, in general terms, the likely outcomes of KTP programmes compared with the cluster experience and suggests areas for further exploration.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/146069206789331401

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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  • Established in 1998, The Design Journal is an international, refereed journal covering all aspects of design. The journal welcomes articles on design in both cultural and commercial contexts. The journal is published four times a year and provides a forum for design scholars, professionals, educators, and managers worldwide. It publishes thought-provoking work that will have a direct impact on design knowledge and that challenges assumptions and methods, while being open-minded about the evolving role of design.
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