Carla Costa Seeks to Identify the Drivers of Industrial Clusters' Performance
Agglomeration vs. Heritage: The Molds and Plastics Industries in Portugal” is the title of the dissertation of Carla Costa, who successfully defended her dual degree Ph.D. in Technological Change and Entrepreneurship, on May 14th, 2013. Co-advised by Rui Baptista, from the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, and David Hounshell, from Carnegie Mellon University, Carla Costa expects that her findings will have a real impact for policy makers and firms.
During her Ph.D. studies, Carla Costa made an econometric analysis of detailed data on firms, founders, and workers in the Portuguese molds and plastics industries covering the period of 1986 to 2009. Throughout the analysis of the data, Carla Costa found, among other important issues, “that overall the performance of firms in a clustered industry is mainly driven by the transmission of important tacit knowledge through the entrepreneurial activities of workers from the same or a related industry.” Carla Costa believes that these findings “imply that policies aiming to incentive cluster formation in a region should target industries where tacit knowledge is important.”
In the scope of her Ph.D., Carla Costa and her Portuguese advisor Rui Baptista received for their paper on “Agglomeration vs. Organizational Reproduction: The Molds Cluster in Portugal,” an honorable mention for Best Paper at the 2011 SMS - Strategic Management Society Annual Conference (link: http://www.cmuportugal.org/tiercontent.aspx?id=3972).
Carla Costa is a passionate woman who in the near future intends to “follow a career in academia involving research, teaching, and work with entrepreneurs.”
CMU Portugal: You defended your dissertation on May 14th, 2013. How do you comment on your experience as a dual degree doctoral student in Technological Change and Entrepreneurship?
Carla Costa (CC): My experience in the TCE Program was very positive. I could experience the academic environments of both the U.S. and Europe, and across engineering and business schools. This diversity helps us establish a wider international professional network. However, having two advisors probably introduces an additional level of complexity in a Ph.D. Nevertheless, this is a common practice in many cases also outside the CMU Portugal Program.
CMU Portugal: What were your main findings during your Ph.D. studies?
CC: My research tries to identify the drivers of industrial clusters' performance. I find that overall the performance of firms in a clustered industry is mainly driven by the transmission of important tacit knowledge through the entrepreneurial activities of workers from the same or a related industry (in the same value-chain). Benefits associated to the accumulation of firms in the same or related industries in a region can also have a positive impact on the performance of those firms, however these are less persistent over time. I also find that the benefits of agglomeration seem to be limited to industries where tacit knowledge is important, and where spinoffs are prevalent.
CMU Portugal: What will be the impact of these findings?
CC: My findings have impact for both policy makers and firms. They imply that policies aiming to incentive cluster formation in a region should target industries where tacit knowledge is important (or in very early industry emergence stages, when knowledge is not yet codified and widespread). These policies should promote the creation of spinoffs by removing non-compete clauses in labor contracts and support the creation of new spinoffs by facilitating access to financing. For entrepreneurs and firms, my findings should influence their location decision. The findings imply that firms should expect to benefit from locating in a region with a strong concentration of competitors and suppliers or customers, in particular if the entrepreneurs were working in the same or a related industry in their prior jobs, and if the tacit knowledge is important in their industry.
CMU Portugal: Now that you have finished your Ph.D., what will you do next?
CC: I want to follow a career in academia involving research, teaching, and work with entrepreneurs. I plan to continue learning from research in order to transfer that knowledge to both students and entrepreneurs. I want my work to have an impact on science but also on economic development. In summary, I want my work to matter for both students who want to know more, and entrepreneurs who want to change the world.