Cluster capabilities: A study of variables that influence innovation performance in a process industry cluster
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Abstract Innovation is an important thing to consider in a society in aspect to establish new businesses and growing existing ones. Innovation has always played an important role in the process industry in Norway, ever since the entrepreneurs Sam Eyde and Kristian Birkeland laid the foundation for the industry more than 100 years ago. Many of the large technological leaps we have seen over the years have been due to important radical innovations made at a local regional level. Still, most of the improvements have been due to patient incremental innovations that over time have laid the foundation for the economical position the process industry have today. It is believed that this foundation is what makes it competitive to manufacture in a labor costly country like Norway today. The Eyde network was established in 2007, and has since its foundation grown to become a strong foundation and influencer for the process industry in the southern part of Norway. The authors are both employed with Core Companies within Eyde, and wanted to study the cluster and the Core Companies to get a deeper insight in how innovation is driven in the cluster, and what types of success criteria that needs to be in place to succeed with innovation, business development and economic growth. We have chosen to study some variables that we have found from the literature to be important influencers to innovation in clusters. We have also added variables that we have observed during our professional careers, which we believe could have an impact on cooperation and innovation in a cluster. The scope of such an assignment with all possible and relevant variables would be of a great magnitude. To narrow the scope down to a manageable size for a master thesis, we have chosen to focus on the largest Core Companies, and we have delimited the variables down to a set, which we at the starting point believed to be manageable. In retrospect, we see that we still could have narrowed down the scope of variables even more. What we have seen from the study, is that there is a high level of trust among the Core Companies, and that the Core Companies have development of strong relationship among themselves. We have established that there is a lot of joint cooperation going on within the cluster, especially on areas concerning reduction of operational cost. Moreover, there are many ongoing initiatives on Lean Manufacturing, energy management, maintenance and automation, which in total have triggered many initiatives on incremental innovation. We have seen that there are some few joint initiatives that have potential to become radical innovation in the future, but in general there has been very little initiatives on radical innovation where cooperation among the Core Companies have been central. We have observed that there are initiatives on radical innovation within the cluster, but these are mainly driven within the respective Core Companies and their parent Corporations. In general, we observe that there are many creative initiatives on incremental innovation where the companies are cooperating peripheral to their strategic core. When looking at radical innovations, which would mean that the Core Companies would have to cooperate closer to the strategic core, we find very few examples on cooperation.