Clusters and industrial districts in the twin transition



The concepts of clusters and industrial districts are still at the centre of an important debate in the literature, but more recently a rethinking of the concepts has been addressed (Lazzeretti et al., 2021), also to face digital and environmental transitions of localities (Lazzeretti et al., 2022; Sedita et al., 2021). 

The so-called "twin" digital and green transitions (Cooke, 2021) are two relevant processes that have an impact on territories, localities, regions and nations. The digital transition is related to new promising research lines in the clusters/industrial districts research such as digitization, I4.0 and Fourth Industrial Revolution (e.g. Hervas-Oliver et al., 2021; Bettiol et al., 2021; De Propris and Bailey, 2020). Clusters and I40 have been investigated for some time (Gotz and Jankowska, 2017), but several research gaps are still unanswered (Fraske, 2022). In the face of digital transition, the role of local forces, networks and social dynamics are endangered. In the era of artificial intelligence and Industry 4.0, knowledge is becoming more and more chaotic. New challenges for territorial models are emerging (Broekel et al., 2021). Could these processes overcome social dynamics and the role of localities? 

On the other hand, there is increasing attention from customers, policy-makers and managers towards the green transition of territories (Hansen and Cohen, 2015; Conen et al., 2012). Sustainability in cluster and industrial districts is a major research stream these days (Sedita et al., 2021; Chaminade and Randelli, 2020). However, not much is known about the green transition of cluster and industrial districts intertwining with digital processes. How do these two processes interact at the local level? 

The debate in the literature is focusing on several themes like carbon zero emission strategies and policies (Sedita et al., 2021; Bassetti et al., 2020), sustainable green innovations (Ghisetti & Pontoni, 2015; Cainelli et al., 2015), sustainability and climate change issues (Sedita et al., 2021). How all these processes may affect clusters and industrial districts? Moreover, the green transition has been so far investigated mainly by adopting a mono-disciplinary approach. This opens up new interesting research avenues for the adoption of multidisciplinary approaches (Sedita et al., 2021). Beyond the two processes of digital and green transitions, the cluster/industrial districts literature is building up new research avenues while re-elaborating and advancing knowledge on traditional topics such as innovation (radical vs incremental) (Hervas et al., 2018; 2022), networks (rethinking their role at the local level) (Belso-Martínez et al., 2020; Ruiz-Ortega et al., 2020; Capone et al., 2021), and the role of multinationals (in localities) (Belussi, 2018; Hervas-Oliver et al., 2020), among others. 

This special issue attempts to gather high-quality articles on the clusters and industrial districts that present new evidence on emerging topics with a specific, but not limited focus on digitalisation, environmental and sustainability issues. 

In line with CR's scope and research priorities, the studies published in the special issue will focuson the competitiveness of locations at all stages of economic development. We especially welcome case studies building theory or case studies as examples of specific cases of cluster/industrial districts; also, econometrics-based studies, conceptual papers or others focus on cluster/industrial districts and competitiveness, such as those addressing policy initiatives. Investigations of firm-level and non-firm-level determinants of competitiveness and innovation in clusters/industrial districts are all welcome


List of topic areas

Potential topics for the special issue may include but are not limited to: 

  • The green and/or digital transition of clusters and industrial districts
  • How do clusters and industrial districts become sustainable?
  • How do firms, institutions and local organizations cooperate towards sustainability?
  • Sustainability in cluster/industrial districts: collective actions and firm strategy
  • Can the digital transition process endanger/overcome social dynamics and the role of localities?
  • The renewed role of local networks in clusters and industrial districts in the era of digitization
  • I40 in clusters and industrial districts: adoption, transfer and policy
  • Digitization and servitization in cluster/industrial districts and their firms


Guest Editors

Prof. Jose-Luis Hervas-Oliver, 
Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain,
[email protected] 

Prof. Francesco Capone, 
University of Florence Italy, 
[email protected]


Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: 
Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.


Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 30 March 2023 
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 30 June 2023 
Closing date for abstract submission: 30 March 2023 
Email for submissions: [email protected], [email protected]