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Innovations, Competitiveness and Local Embeddedness: A Study of Machinery Producers in Sweden

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This paper is about technological relations and firm performance in the Swedish machinery industry. Taking its point of departure in the proliferating literature on the localized nature of learning and innovation processes, the paper sets out to answer three empirical questions: To what extent are firms integrated in localized production systems based on buyer-supplier relations? At what geographical level–local/regional, national or international–are the most important technological relations found? Is there a correlation between localized technological relations and the technological performance of firms? The results indicate that few firms display localized buyer-supplier relations. Rather, the industry is highly internationalized, with the most important customers and competitors located outside Sweden. In terms of technologically important relations, the domestic arena seems to be more important. The majority of the most important technological relations link the machinery producers to other actors in Sweden. Three out of four firms may be classified as predominantly local/regional or national in their technological relations, or technology profile. This survey therefore supports the notion that there exists both local/regional and national innovation systems. Finally, however, despite the fact that most firms are fairly locally embedded in their technology relations, there is no evidence that such embeddedness shows up as superior firm performance, in terms of technology level or innovative capacity.
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Keywords: Technology; firm performance; innovations; inter-firm relations; local embeddedness; machinery industry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University, Sweden

Publication date: 1999-04-01

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