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Regional Competition as a „relational‟ problem?

The Example of the Aerospace Industry in Toulouse, Seattle and north-west England

Hausarbeit 2009 20 Seiten

Geowissenschaften / Geographie - Wirtschaftsgeographie


Table of contents

1. Introduction: An approach to relational geometries

2. “Rethinking relational economic geography”

3. The aerospace potential of Toulouse, Seattle and North-west England: a regional approach

4. The relational approach: Evolution, organization, innovation and interaction
4.1 The aerospace clusters of Toulouse, Seattle and North-west England - Research and interaction
4.1.1 Internationalization, specification and continuity of relationships
4.1.2 Regional networks and the continuity-factor
4.1.3 International network-relations of Airbus and Boeing

5. Conclusion: Regional Competition as a „relational‟ problem?


Table of figures

Figure 1: Toulouse and „Aerospace Valley‟

Figure 2: Washington State

Figure 3: North-west England

Figure 4: Relationality and competitiveness in aerospace clusters

1. Introduction: An approach to relational geometries

The relational approach goes beyond a mere geographical point of view by emphasizing its focus on the varying forms of relations (e.g. social, cultural) among actors and structures that effect dynamic changes in the spatial organization of economic activities. Its research topics are economic innovations, cross-company forms of organization and processes of collective-institutional learning.1

Hence, core elements of the relational approach are organization (e.g. cluster), evolution (e.g. historical structures), innovation (e.g. technological development) and interaction (e.g. learning, mutual trust) in and between structures and actors.2

Following the relational approach, a research of the development of the aerospace industry is of particular interest, due to its concentration as “an assembly and high- technology industry that inevitably involves a high level of inter-company collaboration”3, its internationalized character and its different development in various regions, which has been significantly influenced by organizational, structural and innovatory changes.

The study reviews those changes by emphasizing on the evolutionary development of the aerospace industry in Toulouse, Seattle and North-west England in terms of historical achievements and internal and external changes.

By linking relational perceptions and empirical results, the study aims to clarify if regional competition in the aerospace industry can be seen as a „relational‟ problem. Therefore, I will first give a brief proposal to amplify the relational approach, based on the work of Yeung (2005). Thereafter, I will present the empirical findings concerning aerospace-related research institutes, processes of internationalization and specification, and the creation of regional and inter-regional networks. This part is based mainly on the works of Hickie (2006) and Niosi/Zhegu (2005), as well as on Internet presentations of the different aerospace-related alliances, firms and locations of the three regions. The results of the study are going to be presented in a brief conclusion that shows how the ideas of the relational approach can be conceived concerning the aerospace industry of our three regions.

2. “Rethinking relational economic geography”

In the essay “Rethinking relational economic geography” (2005) Yeung amplifies the above described relational approach by highlighting the importance of networks and network relations: success and prosperity of firms are explained in terms of how inter- firm networks perform "in relation to competing networks in the same region and elsewhere (e.g. global competition) ... and the importance of this network in relation to the firms overall transactional activities that often go beyond localized networks"4 Furthermore he draws our attention to the importance of power5 relations and actor- specific practices in the making of economic space and its power geometries: "[m]ediated and realized through actor-specific practice, the emergent power ... provides a major force to drive association and interconnections and to produce socio- spatial outcomes."6

Placing the analytical emphasis on heterogeneous configurations of power relations within particular regions, the relational approach conceives the region as a relational construct through which heterogeneous flows of actors, assets and structures coalesce and take place.7 It analytically focuses on the inherent tension in producing regional development outcomes, and analysis in particular the relational complementarity and relational specificity of these actors (local and non-local), assets (tangible and intangible) and structures (formal and informal), and their interactive power relations.8 This methodological specification allows for an analysis of why some actors (e.g. firms and unions) are more tied to specific regions and therefore likely to contribute to regional development and helps to identify the relational advantage of regions when a particular set of heterogeneous relations might be more beneficial to one region than to another one.9

3. The aerospace potential of Toulouse, Seattle and North-west England: a introductory regional presentation

Toulouse is the capital of the Midi-Pyrenees region in south-west France. Its the home of Airbus Industry, a European consortium founded in 1970 between Aerospatiale (France) and Deutsche Airbus (Germany), soon CASA (Spain) and British Aerospace (GB) joined them (1971, 1979). Today Airbus is the greatest employer of the city.10

Apart from aerospace industry, Toulouse is a centre for electronics, information technology, and biotechnology. It is also the third major French university city with around 110.000 students. The city's growth has been significantly due to the aerospace industry and aerospace related industries and companies.11

Figure 1: Toulouse and ‘Aerospace Valley’

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Aerospace Valley (2006), p. 3.

Seattle, in Washington State in the north-west of the USA, has been the home of the Boeing company from as early as 1917 until 2001, than it moved to Chicago, Illinois.12 However, Seattle is still the headquarters to a number of Boeing companies, most significantly Boeing Commercial Aircraft, and its R&D (research and development) subsidiary Phantom Works, so that the aerospace industry is still highly represented in Seattle. Nevertheless, nowadays the city is also known as the headquarters of Microsoft. Like Toulouse, Seattle is a university city with six universities in or near to it.13

In Washington State there are about 156 aerospace companies, from the indigenous and basic (e.g. Aeroform, a fabrications company), to subsidiaries of major companies supplying both Boeing (e.g. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics) and Airbus (e.g. Matsushita Avionics Systems).14

Figure 2: Washington State

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: (2009)

The north-west of England is a region with several aerospace centres and about 600 to 800 aerospace related companies that are prime- and sub-contractors in the aerospace and high-technology engineering industries.15 Its heart is in central Lancashire, around Preston, where BAE Systems, the successor company of British Aerospace, has plants at Warton and Samlesbury, and where Rolls Royce has a plant nearby at Barnoldswick. Until recently BAE Systems manufactured regional jets near Manchester (in Chadderton and Woodford). Airbus UK (partly owned by BAE Systems) has a plant at Broughton in North Wales, close to Chester.16

Figure 3: North-west England

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Greenhalgh (2008), p. 2


1 cf. Haas/Neumair 2007, pp. 31 f.

2 cf. Bathelt/Glückler 2003, pp. 36 ff.

3 Hickie 2006, p. 697.

4 Yeung 2005, p. 43.

5 Yeung defines power as "the emergent effects of social practice among actors who have the capacity and resources to influence", ibid., p. 44.

6 ibid., p. 46.

7 cf. ibid., pp. 47 f.

8 cf. ibid., pp. 46 ff.

9 cf. ibid., p. 48.

10 cf. Niosi/Zhegu 2005, p. 17; cf. Aschenbroich 2006, pp. 50 f.

11 cf. Hickie 2006, pp. 697 f.

12 cf. 2001. 13 cf. Hickie 2006, p. 698.

14 cf. ibid.

15 The numbers differ from over 600 (cf. 2008) to over 800 aerospace companies in North-west England (cf. Hickie 2006, p. 698).

16 cf. Hickie 2006, p. 698; cf. 2008.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
1 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Universität zu Köln – Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeographisches Institut
regional competition example aerospace industry toulouse seattle england




Titel: Regional Competition as a „relational‟ problem?