The role of intermediaries in the upgrading of incipient developing clusters

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Matías Ramirez
SPRU, University of Sussex (United Kingdom)
Jueves, 19 Mayo 2011 - 12:00

This presentation analyses the role played by “knowledge intermediaries” in consolidating the position of emerging resource-based clusters in export markets. The focus of the paper is two-fold. Firstly, it argues that through a process of uneven development, new opportunities for exporting and upgrading natural resources have emerged in some hitherto underdeveloped districts, but that the absence of producer organisations with strong learning capabilities means that organisations, including government bodies and producer associations that play roles of intermediaries have assumed the leadership roles. It argues that in the context of emerging clusters, these knowledge intermediaries act not only to facilitate the transfer and diffusion of knowledge into and within clusters, as previous studies of intermediaries have suggested, but and crucially because of their intermediary activities, their scope of activities extends into far more strategic activities such as leading joint-investment and dissemination of external activities. The significance of this development for these emerging clusters lies in the role these organisations play in creating “joint” actions amongst producers, the development of networks, inclusion of small firms and the development of inclusive agendas, which as the literature has argued, is a key factor for the upgrading of emerging clusters.

As part of the above discussion, the presentation provides detailed re-conceptualisation of the role of so-called knowledge intermediaries in the specific context of emerging clusters.  While it is generally recognised that intermediaries have become increasingly important in discussions regarding knowledge generation and knowledge transfer, most studies have tended to emphasize their role as that of augmenting firm-level competencies, providing assistance to university spin-offs or helping artisans or entrepreneurs respond to market opportunities (Piore and Sabel 1984). Intermediaries have therefore been consigned to playing an important, albeit but subsidiary role in a cluster. We argue that “knowledge intermediation” plays a more central role in the development of emerging clusters than has until now been recognized. By taking a “practice-based” approach to the study of knowledge generation and transfer, we can highlight the role of intermediaries in creating and disseminating new practices. For this purpose we develop a taxonomy of intermediaries that is built around how knowledge is developed and disseminated in clusters. This approach is particularly effective in the study of agricultural clusters, where the development of joint practices is crucial.


Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación | Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 4ª (Sala Descubre. Cubo Rojo)

Universidad Politécnica de Valencia | Camino de Vera s/n

Breve CV del Ponente: 

Senior lecturer at SPRU in the University of Sussex.

He has researched and published in a range of areas. One of main interests lies in relating knowledge work to innovation. This includes research into areas of knowledge management, the relationship between labour mobility, networks of knowledge workers, communities of practice, epistemic communties and knowledge flows. He was also the principal investigator in an ESRC funded project looking at networks of knowledge workers in China's largest high technology park between 2006 and 2007.Another area of research involves international comparative analysis, focussing in particular on  management training, employment regimes in high technology sectors and how networks of professional, occupational and practice based networks are configured across national systems. More recently he has turned his attention to knowledge transfer in developing clusters and with the help of a British Academy grant, undertook a study of the Mango cluster in Peru.

Dr Ramirez was on the editorial board of Work, Employment and Society between 2008 and 2010. He has also reviewed papers for numerous journals including Research Policy, International Business Review and Journal of Change Management.

Matias currently convenes "Managing Knowledge" on the post-graduate SPRU masters programme and co-convenes "International Business Systems" on the International Management MSc programme.