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The Grand Tour: The Role of Catalyzing Places for Industry Emergence

Paolo Aversa, Emanuele Bianchi, Loris Gaio, Alberto Nucciarelli
Published: 10 September 2021

Abstract: Research on clusters highlights that some areas display superior conditions to locally nurture concentrations of businesses. But why do certain industries—despite ascribing their origin to specific locations—emerge away from their birthplace? We respond by qualitatively investigating the influence that the town of Arco, Italy, and its periodic event ‘RockMaster’ exerted on the emergence of the global sport climbing industry. We advance the concept of ‘catalyzing places’ that support the emergence and growth of industries through an ongoing, cyclical process of three forces—centripetal (i.e., attracting), catalyzing (i.e., reacting), and centrifugal (i.e., ejecting). The forces attract communities of practice to the place, expose them to intense, transformational experiences towards entrepreneurship, and ultimately induce them to establish their businesses elsewhere. By redeploying the resources and reputation acquired in the place, these scattered communities enact a collective phenomenon of user entrepreneurship, and ultimately industry emergence. We claim that the ongoing activities of the place, and the periodic ones of the event, are mutually reinforcing. We advance two novel elements, ‘portable economies’ and ‘springboard firms,’ which in catalyzing places exert the antithetical effect of ‘agglomeration economies’ and ‘anchor firms’ in clusters. We discuss our contribution to research on industry emergence, new practices, and user entrepreneurship.
Keywords: catalyzing places / industry emergence / ultimately / economies / user entrepreneurship

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