Many scholars have emphasized how important it is to be part of a technology cluster, in order to have favorable conditions to trigger the innovation process both at the firm and cluster levels. Moreover a number of contributions explain how the presence of a leading firm in a cluster positively affects cluster development. The leading firm favors the diffusion of knowledge among cluster members and acts as an interface to absorb new knowledge from external sources. However, studies on this topic focus predominantly on cases of successful clusters and there is little understanding of the issues regarding clusters that failed or were unsuccessful. Our aim is to investigate if the presence of a leading firm in a technology cluster always favors processes of development or if, on the contrary, it can hinder cluster growth by encouraging a lock-in phenomenon. We respond to the research question by analyzing the behavior of a leading firm (Alenia Aeronautica) in the Campania aircraft cluster. On the basis of research results we conclude that the presence of a focal firm in a technology cluster is not always a positive factor if this firm does not act as knowledge hub with explicit objectives of transferring knowledge to other cluster members. On the contrary, in some cases the presence of a focal firm may actually hinder cluster development by limiting the activity of other companies in the system.
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