Differentiated Knowledge Bases and the Nature of Innovation Networks
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It is argued in this paper that the nature of innovation networks can vary substantially with regard to the type of knowledge that is critical for innovation. Subject to the knowledge base of an industry, networks between companies can differ in various aspects, such as their geographical configuration, their structure, the type of actors holding a strategic position and the type of relations between actors. The paper comprises a conceptual discussion on social capital theory and networks, followed by a theoretically informed discussion on differentiated knowledge bases and innovation networks, which is subsequently illustrated with empirical material. The empirical analysis is based on social network analysis in association with exclusive data about patterns of cooperation and knowledge exchange in a number of regional industries located in different parts of Europe. The findings suggest that networks in analytical industries are not much constrained by geographical distance; knowledge is exchanged in a highly selective manner between research units and scientists in globally configured epistemic communities. Synthetic industries source knowledge within nationally or regionally configured networks between suppliers and customers, and within communities of practice. Symbolic industries rely on knowledge that is culturally defined and highly context specific, resulting in localized networks that are temporary and flexible in nature.