Main types of networks

Networks imply growing success and competitiveness. They are the answer to a structural change towards an information society, for small and medium sized enterprises as well.

Main ways of collaboration:

  • Clusters
  • Community of practice
  • Strategic alliances
  • Social networks

Clusters are geographically close groups of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by common technologies and skills – according to the definition of Michael Porter. Clusters are normally concentrated in regions and sometimes in a single town.

Successful clusters provide macroeconomic benefits as well by driving development of the region, having a positive impact on investments in the region and in research infrastructure in particular and also bydriving the improvement of competences of employees.

The concept of community of practice was first used by Etienne Wenger in 1991 in connection to social learning. The term has developed some since then and refers to such a network that occurs when people linked by a common interest in some subject. Members mutually share knowledge, experiences, methods and tools. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop their knowledge in a given field.

A strategic alliance is a formal relationship formed between parties to pursue common goals while remaining independent organisations. This alliance may be seen as the joining of resources, for a specified period, to achieve a common objective. Strategic alliances allow companies to share skills, resources, information. The objective is to obtain more benefits by working together to share knowledge, resources and risks. This can also be viewed as a new model or business structure.

Social Network Analysis theory produces an alternate view, where the attributes of individuals are seen as less important than their relationships and ties with other actors. Facebook is the most widely known personal relationship network. An important tool for online marketing is to reveal and analyse social network and determine if it is meeting the business needs of the group.

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