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Encyclopedia of Networked and Virtual Or... > Local Networks in Global Markets - Pg. 822

822 Local Networks in Global Markets Iva Miranda Pires Faculdade Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Portugal IntroductIon Competitiveness might be defined as the success with which firms and regions compete with one another over market shares and resources. Clusters are inno- vative, firm, organizational forms (networks of firms, services and institutions linked in a production value chain) in way to improve regional competitiveness in flexible, highly demanding and unpredictable markets. Since the early eighties, the "region" was rediscovered and a burgeoning literature from Californian, Italian and French scholars in sociology, economics and ge- ography offered a wide range of perspectives on the relevance of the territory and the region to economic and social life. The concept of industrial district, a particular type of cluster, emerged during the seventies and eighties Porter who defined it as "a geographic concentration of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries and asso- ciated institutions (for example universities, standards agencies, and trade associations) in particular fields that compete but also cooperate" (Porter, 1998, p. 197). Both concepts were widely diffused within aca- demia, allowing for a discussion of their contents, limits, key characteristics, development and strategies for facing change, and among policy-makers concerned with finding ways to foster the potential of clusters and industrial districts for regional competitiveness and growth. Besides clusters and industrial districts other terms are used to refer to geographic concentration of inter- connected firms in which local institutional dynamics play a significant role (Moulaert and Sekia (2003),