43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe", 27th - 30th August 2003, Jyväskylä, Finland
Industrial clusters have been defined as ?networks of production of strongly interdependent firms (including specialised suppliers), knowledge producing agents (universities, research institutes, engineering companies), institutions (brokers, consultants), linked to each other in a value adding production chain? (OECD Focus Group, 1999). The industrial clusters distinctive mode of production is specialisation, based on a sophisticated division of labour, that leads to interlinked activities and need for cooperation, with the consequent emergence of communities of practice (CoPs). CoPs are here conceived as groups of people and/or organisations bound together by shared expertise and propensity towards a joint work (Wenger and Suyden, 1999). Cooperation needs closeness for just-in-time delivery, for communication, for the exchange of knowledge, especially in its tacit form. Indeed the knowledge exchanges between the CoPs specialised actors, in geographical proximity, lead to spillovers and synergies. In the digital economy landscape, the use of collaborative technologies, such as shared repositories, chat rooms and videoconferences can, when appropriately used, have a positive impact on the development of the CoP exchanges process of codified knowledge. On the other end, systems for the individuals profile management, e-learning platforms and intelligent agents can trigger also some socialisation mechanisms of tacit knowledge. In this perspective, we have set-up a model of a Knowledge Hub (KH), driven by the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT-driven), that enables the knowledge exchanges of a CoP. In order to present the model, the paper is organised in the following logical steps: - an overview of the most seminal and consolidated approaches to CoPs; - a description of the KH model, ICT-driven, conceived as a booster of the knowledge exchanges of a CoP, that adds to the economic benefits coming from geographical proximity, the advantages coming from organizational proximity, based on the ICTs; - a discussion of some preliminary results that we are obtaining during the implementation of the model.