The Biomedical Valley: Structural, Relational, and Social Psychological Aspects

THE TECHNOLOGICAL EVOLUTION OF INDUSTRIAL DISTRICTS, pp. 367-388, F. Belussi, G. Gottardi & E. Rullani , eds., Kluwer, 2003

29 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2012

Date Written: 2003


This study furnishes empirical evidence from the biomedical district of Mirandola (Italy) with the aim to offer two distinct contributions to the literature on industrial districts. The first objective is to challenge the stereotyped model of Italian industrial districts whose claimed distinctive features are to be specialized in traditional sectors of the Italian economy, to be relatively self-contained and close productive systems, and to be mainly composed by small and medium size enterprises. The Biomedical Valley contradicts this model being a successful example of a recent, high-tech, hi-wages, and open district led by some medium sized companies, some of which have been acquired by large European and American multinationals. The district emerged in 1963, triggered by a true Schumpeterian entrepreneur, who created the “first firm” of the district, from which many others (the most important) generated through spin-off processes.

The second objective of this study is to present an integrated analysis which complements the traditional approaches, mainly focused on the investigation of the structural characteristics (production cycle, inter-firm division of labor, firms’ size, export) and the historical traits of industrial districts, with some recent perspectives more concerned with the relational (Ebers, 1997; Grandori, 1999) and cognitive interpretation of the district model (Borroi et al., 1998; Sammarra and Biggiero, 2001a, 2001b). Indeed we argue that cooperation, coordination, knowledge transfer and innovation depend not only on structural and relational features, but also on how firms perceive and evaluate their space and how they evaluate their belonging to the local territory. Specifically, we claim that the firms’ identification with the district (as a social category), by supporting the emergence of group processes among the district members, involves qualitative changes in the way firms interact that contribute to enhance the reservoir of social capital available through the generation of intangible resources such as depersonalized trust and cooperative attitudes (see Biggiero and Sammarra in the first part of this volume). Furthermore, we attempt to link the analysis of social identification processes with the main structural and relational variables. We believe that, in order to explain district performance and evolution, all these aspects must be taken into account. In this view, we propose an integrated analysis of the biomedical district localized in the province of Modena (Italy), which compares and complements the structural description of the district with some empirical findings concerning both the relational texture and the processes of social identification enacted by the district members.

In order to develop a full integrated approach, we first highlight the district’s structure and history, illustrating the productive filière and the role that different typologies of firms play within the productive system. Next, we analyze the relational factors of the biomedical district describing the district as hyper-network. Finally, we focus on the cognitive aspects illustrating the role and the mechanisms of formation of a district identity among the biomedical firms.

Keywords: biomedical Valley, district identity, identification processes, industrial district, technological district

JEL Classification: L22, L23

Suggested Citation

Biggiero, Lucio and Sammarra, Alessia, The Biomedical Valley: Structural, Relational, and Social Psychological Aspects (2003). THE TECHNOLOGICAL EVOLUTION OF INDUSTRIAL DISTRICTS, pp. 367-388, F. Belussi, G. Gottardi & E. Rullani , eds., Kluwer, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Lucio Biggiero (Contact Author)

University of L'Aquila ( email )

Via Giuseppe Mezzanotte
L'Aquila, AQ 67100
0862434861 (Phone)


Alessia Sammarra

Independent ( email )

No Address Available
United States

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