Knowledge flow across inter-firm networks: the influence of network resources, spatial proximity, and firm size

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Huggins, Robert ; Johnston, Andrew (2010)

The objective of this paper is to analyze the characteristics and nature of the networks firms utilize to access knowledge and facilitate innovation. The paper draws on the notion of network resources, distinguishing two types: social capital – consisting of the social relations and networks held by individuals; and network capital – consisting of the strategic and calculative relations and networks held by firms. The methodological approach consists of a quantitative analysis of data from a survey of firms operating in knowledge-intensive sectors of activity. The key findings include: social capital investment is more prevalent among firms frequently interacting with actors from within their own region; social capital investment is related to the size of firms; firm size plays a role in knowledge network patterns; and network dynamism is an important source of innovation. Overall, firms investing more in the development of their inter-firm and other external knowledge networks enjoy higher levels of innovation. It is suggested that an over-reliance on social capital forms of network resource investment may hinder the capability of firms to manage their knowledge networks. It is concluded that the link between a dynamic inter-firm network environment and innovation provides an alternative thesis to that advocating the advantage of network stability.
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