Looking at the People Innovating: Innovative Districts of European Ceramics

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Arcade Courtyard (Main Building)
Daniel GABALDON-ESTEVAN, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Universitat de València, Spain
Josep-Antoni YBARRA, Departamento de Economía Aplicada y Política Económica, Universitat d’Alacant, Spain
In recent years, interest has been directed upon sociological concepts to understand how innovation is achieved in the so called traditional sectors, with a special emphasis to the role of agents, networks and institutions. In the one hand the innovation system approach shows growing presence in the debate about the determinants of innovation, and has relevant implications on innovation policy as well. This approach identifies the agents and its connexions in different contexts such as territories (local, regional or national), sectors or technologies allowing an improved understanding on how innovation processes function. Yet, often that boundary may not be the appropriate unit of analysis for studying the most significant relationships regarding innovation in certain contexts such as industrial districts. The industrial district approach, on the other hand, offers the appropriate unit of analysis for studying the relevant relations at industrial districts, however, for the industrial district approach innovation has not been of central focus. Consequently, in the search for analytical tools to study the role of agents, networks and institutions in how innovation is achieved in traditional sectors, we found the Distritual Innovation System (DIS) approach, which combines the perspectives of innovations system and the industrial district, to be the most convenient one to study industrial districts’ innovative performance. In this paper a revision of the main theoretical contributions on the analysis of the role of social networks and interactions for innovation is presented. The theoretical examination is illustrated with the analysis of the European tile ceramic district located in Castellon (Spain) and in Sassuolo (Italy). Specifically, the analysis is directed towards the understanding of how, within the structure of a given district, the networks and institutions and their relations articulate the interaction of those agents that actively participate in the development, diffusion or adoption of innovations.