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Managing Distance: Small Firm Networks at the Geographic Margins
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Human Geography.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Small businesses located in the most sparsely populated and peripheral parts of Europe are frequently believed to be marginalised with respect to the processes of economic globalisation. This thesis proposes to explore an alternative perspective for understanding how small businesses that are located at the geographical margins engage with the globalised economy. Distance is no longer a purely physical phenomenon. Meanwhile, networks are considered to be the primary means for small firms to mobilise external resources and stay competitive. Acknowledging these conceptual shifts, this thesis explores how peripheral small businesses develop network configurations with multiple actors across multiple geographical scales to engage in the global economy.

This thesis consists of four papers and a cover essay. The four papers share the theme of the network interaction of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in peripheral regions and discuss this theme from various perspectives with different research questions. The papers use combinations of quantitative and qualitative analytical methods to empirically investigate the configuration of small firm networks in the case study of Upper Norrland in Sweden.

The cover essay introduces the overarching conceptual framework that is grounded in ideas from the seminal work of Granovetter on the social embeddedness of economic interactions and the ‘strength of weak ties’, and this essay contributes to the debate in geography on multi-scalar proximity dynamics. The empirical findings of the papers describe the collaborative and transactional forms of firm relations in peripheral regions and discuss the role of key actors—such as international customers or regional intermediary organisations—in bridging the local and extra-local dimensions of small firm networks. The conceptual contribution of this thesis corroborates the understanding that small firm development requires a balance between regional and international networks. This thesis also contributes to the debate on development policies for peripheral regions by offering insights into the manner in which institutional support for the design and implementation of open, flexible network arrangements may provide a leverage effect for small firm development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University , 2013. , p. 83
Series
Meddelanden från Kulturgeografiska institutionen vid Stockholms universitet, ISSN 0585-3508 ; 143
Keywords [en]
globalisation, periphery, small firms, embeddedness, extralocal networks, proximity
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Human Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-89068ISBN: 978-91-7447-667-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-89068DiVA, id: diva2:615495
Public defence
2013-05-30, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted. Paper 4: Submitted.

Available from: 2013-05-08 Created: 2013-04-10 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Local Embeddedness and Global Links in Rural Areas: Euclidean and Relational Space in Business Networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Local Embeddedness and Global Links in Rural Areas: Euclidean and Relational Space in Business Networks
2012 (English)In: Translocal Ruralism: Mobility and Connectivity in European Rural Spaces / [ed] Charlotta Hedberg, Renato Miguel do Carmo, Dordrecht: Springer, 2012, p. 103-121Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Rural regions and small businesses are often assumed to be marginalised in relationto contemporary processes of globalisation. Globalisation is perceived to be mainlyan urban phenomenon, with indirect (and predominantly negative) impacts upon the countryside. This chapter explores the extent to which emerging rural business networkconfigurations belie this popular misunderstanding. It presents the conceptualframework, methodology and initial findings of a study investigating the spatial and‘relational’ structures of the business networks of small- and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) in rural areas of Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuaniaand the Netherlands.1Small rural firms usually cannot exploit external economies or agglomerativeadvantages, due to remoteness from large metropolitan markets, and (in some cases) the wide spacing of settlements within their region. For that reason, economic developmentprocesses in rural areas – especially remote and sparsely populated ones –challenge conventional development paradigms in which agglomeration economiesplay an important role. The hypothesis to be explored in this chapter is that successfuland dynamic rural firms derive ‘networking economies’ from frequent andeffective interaction, both with the local business environment, and with a muchmore extensive set of linkages, stretching out across Europe, and perhaps furtherafield. This implies both a degree of global integration and ‘territorial anchoring’,which are not mutually exclusive, but rather are complimentary aspects of a ‘survival strategy’ for SMEs in rural areas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Dordrecht: Springer, 2012
Series
The GeoJournal library ; 103
National Category
Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88908 (URN)10.1007/978-94-007-2315-3_7 (DOI)978-94-007-2314-6 (ISBN)978-94-007-2315-3 (ISBN)
Available from: 2013-04-05 Created: 2013-04-05 Last updated: 2017-11-16Bibliographically approved
2. A Spatial Perspective on Small Firm Networking from a Rural Periphery: The case study of Swedish Norrland
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Spatial Perspective on Small Firm Networking from a Rural Periphery: The case study of Swedish Norrland
2013 (English)In: Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions / [ed] McDonagh, John, Nienaber, Birte and Woods, Michael, Ashgate, 2013Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ashgate, 2013
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88910 (URN)9781409427926 (ISBN)
Available from: 2013-04-05 Created: 2013-04-05 Last updated: 2013-04-11Bibliographically approved
3. Business networks and the competitiveness of small manufacturing firms in a peripheral region
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Business networks and the competitiveness of small manufacturing firms in a peripheral region
(English)In: Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift, ISSN 0029-1951, E-ISSN 1502-5292Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88914 (URN)
Available from: 2013-04-05 Created: 2013-04-05 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
4. Brokering proximity: Facilitating small firm networks in the Northern Periphery
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Brokering proximity: Facilitating small firm networks in the Northern Periphery
(English)In: Regional studies, ISSN 0034-3404, E-ISSN 1360-0591Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-89021 (URN)
Available from: 2013-04-09 Created: 2013-04-09 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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