Business Networks in the Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz and Halle Regions: Do Member Firms Locate in Spatial Proximity?
The business landscape in East Germany mainly consists of small and medium-sized firms. This in mind, business networks may contribute to an improvement of the economic performance of firms which collaborate in business networks. For successful networking a mix of network members being locally concentrated on the one side and of partners from distant regions, especially from abroad, on the other side, is important. In regional economics, this duality is highlighted for two reasons: personal contacts of partners which are located in spatial proximity to each other may ease the transfer of tacit knowledge. The flow of tacit knowledge can be regarded as a factor which enhances innovation processes. However, the inclusion of partners from abroad is important, too. It facilitates access to the most advanced knowledge and technologies worldwide. The academic debate on networking regards a one-sided orientation on the local dimension of networking as risky due to possible lock-in effects. The empirical findings for 93 business networks existing in the regions of Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz and Halle, which are located in the southern part of East Germany, reveal a great proportion of network members concentrated locally: On average, this is the case with more than 50% of the network members. 10% of members are located in the other three city regions mentioned. More than one third of firms are located outside, in other German regions, of which around the half in the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. A minority of 2% is located abroad. However, for the transfer of externally existing knowledge other network members may be relevant, too. To illustrate: More than four fifths of the networks under investigation include public research units (universities etc.) which usually play an important role when it comes to an inter-regional and international knowledge transfer.