SIRIUS Project 2016-2017

The SIRIUS project aims at understanding the multi-scalar factors driving the process of innovation spill over in Indian industrial clusters in comparison to other parts of the World (Nelson & Nelson, 2002; Bathelt & Glückler, 2011). We addressed this issue by combining an analysis of local embeddedness of industrial clusters and their interactions with global networks of multinational firms and co-patenting in which these clusters are inserted in relation with urban systems properties.

Swiss Indian Research program on the globalization of the Indian Urban Systems

The rapid integration of Indian urban areas into circuits of global capital is a critical issue for dynamics of cluster formation, regional innovation systems and regional development. These clusters were propelled by a series of economic reforms aiming at globally integrating product and factor markets. Since the 1990s, multinational firms and enterprises, along with dynamic Indian enterprises were engaged in production and innovation through the development of local economic clusters (Growth corridors) especially in the field of information and communication technologies, automobiles, garments and textiles (Bhattacharya & Nath, 2002). This dynamism has been enabled by the presence of clusters of small firms specialized in specific activities or large public sector firms that owe their existence to the capability building efforts undertaken by the post-independent Indian state which emphasized indigenous industrial development (Lorenzen & Mudambi, 2012; Mezzadri, A. 2014 ; Swerts& Denis, 2016). Dynamism of some clusters, particularly in the case of IT sector has also been attributed to the global networks forged through the Indian diaspora (Saxenian, 2012). The software cluster of Bangalore is a prime example of this phenomenon, often labeled as ‘India’s Silicon Valley’ (Dicken, 2011; Manning, 2013; OECD, 2015).

While these developments are well recognized in literature, two issues remain less understood. The first issue concerns the differential patterns of development of clusters in the same sector since globalization. During this period, while a few clusters have become dynamic, several others despite being promoted by national or sub-national state actors have failed to take off despite apparently having a conductive eco-system for growth. In other words, the political, economic and social conditions that actually impart dynamism to certain clusters, induced and otherwise, and not to others in a rapidly globalizing environment is not clear. Second, even in the case of dynamic clusters, the regional implications of such dynamism in terms of factor and/or product market linkages are not well understood. Developments in globalization and their induced urban processes are great challenges of understanding. However, the theories and concepts of urban systems have mostly been established through Western sources that the analysis of urban dynamics of Indian cities would enable to complete and rework.

Collaboration objectives:

As can be seen, while the Indian team’s strength lies in understanding local linkages and local embeddedness of clusters based on field based research, the Swiss team’s capability lies in unraveling the global and macro links and networks in which clusters are embedded and shaped in relation with urban systems properties. Combining the two approaches will be an invaluable exercise that will enable researchers and policy makers understand the multi-scalar linkages of clustered development and factors driving the process.

In this context, the SIRIUS project would initiate a long-term collaboration between Swiss and Indian teams aiming at explore together the specific Indian case of the political, cultural and geographical factors that have generated the observed singularities in the shape of key Indian clusters. These factors will be constantly evaluated in light of the general theoretical frameworks of regional science (Storper, 2015), evolutionary economic geography (Boschma, Frenken, 2011), of cluster formation (Porter, 1998; Bathelt & Gluckler, 2011), and of urban systems’ dynamics (Duranton & Puga, 2001; Pumain, 2006).

Collaboration methods:

Three axes will be focus on:

1- Refining the field based observations on emergent economic clusters in cities through complementary network analyses, local and global data on multinational firm linkages and studies; Simultaneously ground truth analyses of emergent networks through primary field based observations. The Indian-Swiss collaboration will enhance the interpretation of macro-results and the underlying of interesting case studies;

2- Through some case studies, examining how administrative and economic features of urban territories, together influence the location strategies of multinational corporations and the emergence of local frame of small firms that could become clusters. Case studies already developed by Indian teams will initiate the collaboration, and cross-fertilize the Swiss team’s studies at the macro scale of inter-urban networks and the micro case studies. Joint interviews will be undertaken on previous or new case studies, focusing on different levels of stakeholders (Territorial administrative managers; economic actors; civil society representatives);

3- Developing theoretical reflections on the relations between historical properties of cities and their insertion into global networks (testing the path dependencies assumed by evolutionary geography).

FIRST REPORT (February 2017):

1- The first stage of the collaborative work began in January 2017 with the first visit of the Swiss team to MIDS Chennai. During the visit, the following work was undertaken:

  • Sharing our respective concepts on local/global issues of innovation and industrial clusters. We oriented our approach to understanding local linkages based on the “N-Helix” concept (Leydersdorff, 2012; Gerke et al., 2017). The N-Helix allows defining the different socio-economic and institutional components of the local leveraging of firms and innovation spillovers. It includes layers of locally networked firms occupying different levels of subcontracting chains, service providers, industry associations and their actions, universities, and civil society actors. It follows the classical approach of “clusters” (Porter, 1998; van den Berg et al., 2001) taking into account the local context of wages, prices and regional amenities coupled with the complex governance approach of the local territory;
  • Defining more precisely the targeted local clusters for research: During the first journey of the Swiss researchers in Chennai, we visited the two clusters on which the SIRIUS project will be based: the Sriperumbudur cluster on the outskirts of Chennai city that specializes mostly in automobile and motor component production (Kancheepuram district) and the IT corridor (again Kancheepuram district but in another block in South East Chennai);
  • Identifying multinational firms within the two clusters with different roles and impacts in the two industrial clusters: the Swiss team elaborated a first analysis of the evolution of the global Indian network of multinational firms in 2010, 2013 and 2016. An extended list of individual companies of the two zones and of Chennai metropolitan area was prepared in order to identify the firms we will investigate.

2- The second stage begins from February 2017, and will be achieved during the visit of the Indian partners in Switzerland in May 2017. It will consist in:

  • Integrating different datasets such as the Swiss team database ORBIS, new data collected from the CMIE (Center for Monitoring Indian Economy), Census of Small Scale Industries India, Industrial statistics in India, ACMA (Automotive Component Manufacturing Association), and the SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers). This stage will benefit widely from the previous research of the Indian team of MIDS.
  • Completing a comprehensive review of literature in the area of innovation spillovers and cluster development in order to specify the research questions;
  • Preparing a survey on the local/global networking of different levels of international or local companies; local/regional authorities; universities (especially the ones located inside the two zones);


3- The third stage will begin in June 2017 with the surveys conducted by the Indian and Swiss team. It will directly lead to the writing of a common article. We already expect to identify the local and global factors fostering innovation spill over through the framework mentioned earlier. We will compare these results to the literature, in particular to the ones pertaining to India-China comparisons (Nag et al., 2007; Richet & Ruet, 2008).

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