This project represents a formal research agreement between the UA on the one hand and the NBB on the other. The researcher shall conduct the project entitled "Industrial clusters in Belgium: exploring buyer/supplier linkages in the food industry". The NBB will coordinate the project and will provide the buyer/supplier data. In return, the researcher will deliver a written report presenting the results of the research. The Bank shall then decide if the Report or any part of it meets its quality standards and may be published. If so, the Report shall be published as a Working Paper of the Bank
The project fits within the context of Smart specialization, a key concept in the current regional policy. Rather than focusing on the dichotomy between convergence and competitiveness, smart specialization would enhance greater regional specialization and cooperation. The concept of smart specialization puts forward policy integration along both horizontal lines (between regional, industrial and research policies) and vertical lines (multilevel governance) (Lagendijk, 2011). The concept of smart specialization plays a leading role in the Europe 2020 Strategy and the new Cohesion Policy of the EU (Foray, 2011; McCann, 2011).
Smart specialization and related strategies aim to foster the growth of industrial clusters in regions. Therefore, this research will investigate the spatial distribution of the Belgian food industry based on buyer/supplier linkages provided by the NBB.
A first part of the research is rather exploratory and employs several indices of spatial concentration (e.g. Local Indicators of Spatial Association). To analyze clustering in general, we will make use of statistics on employment, added value and other indicators (Balanscentrale).
In the second step advanced methods for clustering and network analysis will be applied to buyer/supplier linkages of firms in the food sector. To measure linkages between firms in clusters, we aim to make use of an extensive set of micro-economic data. Although studies like Lüthi et al. (2010) can draw meaningful conclusions on the basis of a survey, the sample is biased since it depends on the willingness of firms to participate. Furthermore, studies are often restricted to a small geographical area, i.e. one city. Micro-economic data provided by the NBB on the other hand allows a richer analysis of the extra-firm linkages to other firms in the cluster and to customers and suppliers in the outside world. Network indices can be computed which define the centrality, hierarchy, density, reciprocity, connectedness, modularity… of and in the predefined networks. As a result, the researcher will define several networks of firms which belong to distinct clusters.