Over the last decade or so, networking has become a 'vogue concept' in small business research, connecting with wider debates on learning and regional development. Participation in interfirm networks is seen to provide small firms with access to a broader pool of resources and knowledge, helping them to overcome size-related disadvantages. In particular, the role of such networks as channels for innovation and learning within regions and localities has been emphasized in the context of an apparent shift towards a knowledge-driven economy. In this paper, we provide an empirically-grounded analysis of networking, trust and embeddedness amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Aberdeen oil complex. Drawing upon survey and interview data, it is argued that connections to extra-local networks play a crucial role in providing access to wider sources of information and knowledge. At the same time, an Aberdeen location still matters to oil-related firms because of the access it offers to crucial forms of industry-specific information and expertise. In concurring with recent calls for more empirically-grounded research which seeks to 'test' theoretical propositions against relevant data, we suggest in conclusion that a combination of firm surveys and face-to-face interviews provides an appropriate way forward.
- oil industry
- collective learning-processes
- local economic-development