Tropical Geography ›› 2020, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (5): 942-953.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003276

Previous Articles    

The Formation and Effect of Disembedding Innovation in Traditional Industrial Clusters: A Case Study of Chenghai's Toy Industrial Cluster

Xiaoying Chen1(), Fan Yang1(), Yuhua Wang2   

  1. 1.School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen Unviersity, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2.College of Water Resources and Civil Engineering, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2019-12-19 Revised:2020-04-14 Online:2020-09-28 Published:2020-10-10
  • Contact: Fan Yang;yangfan25@


Since the reform and opening of the economy, China's coastal areas have taken the lead in establishing labor-intensive industrial clusters. These traditional industrial clusters have furthered the rapid development of the regional economy. However, due to massive global changes in the industrial structure, insufficient innovation and "low-end locking" of the value chain in these industrial clusters have become increasingly evident. Most earlier studies explored the local versus global factors in innovation and the upgrading of traditional industrial clusters from a regional perspective, suggesting that innovation in the traditional industrial clusters has a derivative and incremental character, and is embedded in local networks which produce a substantial knowledge spillover. The value added to products improves, yielding a significant competitive advantage and increasing the economic resilience of traditional industrial clusters. With new-generation information and communication technology, geographical and industrial boundaries have become blurred. Traditional industrial clusters have repeatedly presented innovation and transformation modes. More recent studies indicate that experience and knowledge from outside the industrial cluster and cross-industry innovation lead to the elevation of traditional industrial clusters to the high end of the value chain. However, in-depth analyses on the mechanisms and effects of these disembeddeding forces are relatively few. Using Chenghai's toy industrial cluster in Eastern Guangdong as an example, this paper reflects on the formation and effects of the mode of disembedding innovation in traditional industrial clusters. It is found that under the joint actions of market demand, localized innovation networks, external innovation resources, enterprise strategy, and entrepreneurship, the transformation of Chenghai's toy industrial cluster presents two modes. The first is the "non-localized innovation" mode, manifested in the separation between R&D and manufacturing functions. The second is the "cross-industry expansion and innovation" mode manifested in the development of emerging industries or their integration with traditional industries. These innovative practices have had a constructive effect on cluster enterprises and regional economies. They integrate external innovation resources, merging them with their own innovative advantages. They have also established a productive local innovation ecology and promoted independent innovation capacities, raised awareness of the need to protect the intellectual property of enterprises. These practices also strengthen the traditional toy industry and promote the transformation and upgrade of the cluster. Finally, they drive the overall improvement of the regional economies. Therefore, the innovation of traditional industrial clusters can transcend their regional and original industrial boundaries, expanding into a larger spatial scale and industrial scope.

Key words: traditional industrial cluster, disembedding innovation, Chenghai's toy industry

CLC Number: 

  • F427