The ‘Bright’ Side of Social Capital: How ‘Bridging’ Makes Italian Provinces More Innovative

  • Riccardo CrescenziEmail author
  • Luisa Gagliardi
  • Marco Percoco
Part of the Advances in Spatial Science book series (ADVSPATIAL)


Existing studies have failed to reach a consensus on the impact of social capital on local innovative performance: some empirical analyses emphasize a positive effect while others speak about a ‘dark side’ of social capital. This chapter aims to shed new light on the differential role of ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’ social capital in innovation dynamics. The spatial economic analysis of the innovative performance of the Italian provinces suggests that social capital is an important predictor of innovative performance. However, only ‘bridging’ social capital-based on weak ties-can be identified as a relevant driver of the process of innovation while ‘bonding’ social capital is shown to be non-significant for innovation.


Innovation Social Capital Knowledge Transfer Regional Development 


  1. Alesina A, Giuliano P (2010) The power of the family. J Econ Growth 15(2):93–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arrighetti A, Lasagni A (2010) Capitale sociale, contesto istituzionale e performance innovative delle imprese. Sci Reg 10:5–34Google Scholar
  3. Asheim B (1999) Interactive learning and localised knowledge in globalising learning economies. GeoJournal 49:345–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Audretsch DB (2003) Innovation and spatial externalities. Int Reg Sci Rev 26:167–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Audretsch DB, Feldman MP (1996) R&D spillovers and the geography of innovation and production. Am Econ Rev 86:253–273Google Scholar
  6. Audretsch DB, Feldman MP (2004) Knowledge spillovers and the geography of innovation. In: Henderson JV, Thisse J-F (eds) Handbook of regional and urban economics, vol 4. Elsevier, Princeton, pp 2713–2739Google Scholar
  7. Banerjee AV, Duflo E (2005) Growth theory through the lens of development economics. In: Durlauf SN, Aghion P (eds) Handbook of economic growth, volume 1A. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  8. Banfield EC (1958) The moral basis of a backward society. Free Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker W, Diez J (2004) R&D Cooperation and innovation activities of firms. Evidence for the German manufacturing industry. Res Policy 33:209–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beugelsdijk S, Smulders S (2003) Bridging and bonding social capital: which type is good for economic growth? Paper presented at European Regional Science Association, JyvaskilaGoogle Scholar
  11. Beugelsdijk S, van Schaiik T (2005) Social capital and growth in European regions: an empirical test. Eur J Polit Econ 21:301–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boggs JS, Rantisi NM (2003) The ‘relational turn’ in economic geography. J Econ Geogr 3:109–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boschma RA (2005) Proximity and innovation: a critical assessment. Reg Stud 39(1):61–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bourdieu D (1986) The forms of capital. In: Richardson J (ed) Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Greenwood, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Breschi S, Lissoni F (2001) Localised knowledge spillovers vs. innovative milieux: knowledge “tacitness” reconsidered. Pap Reg Sci 90:255–273Google Scholar
  16. Burt RS (2004) Structural holes and good ideas. Am J Sociol 110:349–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cainelli G, Mancinelli S, Mazzanti M (2005) Social capital, R&D and industrial district, Feem working papers n 744584Google Scholar
  18. Camagni RP (1995) The concept of “innovative milieu” and its relevance for public policies in European lagging regions. Pap Reg Sci 74:317–340Google Scholar
  19. Capello R, Faggian A (2005) Collective learning and relational capital in local innovation processes. Reg Stud 39:75–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cartocci R (2007) Mappe del tesoro: atlante del capitale sociale in Italia. Il Mulino, BolognaGoogle Scholar
  21. Cohen S, Fields G (2000) Social capital and capital gains: an examination of social capital in Silicon Valley. In: Kenney M (ed) Understanding Silicon Valley. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  22. Coleman JS (1988) Social capital in the creation of human capital. Am J Sociol 94:S95–S120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cooke P, Morgan K (1998) The associational economy: firms regions and innovation. Oxford Economic Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Cooke P, Uranga MG, Etxebarria G (1997) Regional innovation systems: institutional and organisational dimensions. Res Policy 26:475–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Cooke P, Clifton N, Oleaga M (2005) Social capital, firm embeddedness and regional development. Reg Stud 39(8):1065–1077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Crescenzi R, Rodriguez-Pose A, Storper M (2007) The territorial dynamics of innovation: a Europe–United states comparative analysis. J Econ Geogr 7:673–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Crescenzi R, Rodríguez-Pose A, Storper M (2012) The territorial dynamics of innovation in China and India. J Econ Geogr (forthcoming)Google Scholar
  28. Dakhli M, De Clercq D (2004) Human capital, social capital and innovation: a multi-country study. Entrep Reg Dev 16(2):107–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De Blasio G, Nuzzo G (2010) Historical traditions of civicness and local economic development. J Reg Sci 50(4):833–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Di Pasquale D, Glaeser E (1999) Incentives and social capital: are homeowners better citizens? J Urban Econ 45(2):354–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Duranton G, Rodriguez-Pose A, Sandall R (2009) Family types and the persistence of regional disparities in Europe. Econ Geogr 85(1):23–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Feldman MP (1994) The geography of innovation. Kluwer, BostonGoogle Scholar
  33. Florida R (1995) Towards the learning region. Futures 27(5):527–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Florida R (2002) The rise of the creative class: and how it’s transforming work, leisure, community, and everyday life. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  35. Fritsch M (2002) Measuring the quality of regional innovation systems: a knowledge production function approach. Int Reg Sci Rev 25:86–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fritsch M, Franke G (2004) Innovation, regional knowledge spillovers and R&D cooperation. Res Policy 33:245–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fukuyama F (1995) Trust: the social virtues and the creation of prosperity. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Giavazzi F, Schiantarelli F, Serafinelli M (2010) Attitudes, policies and work, mimeoGoogle Scholar
  39. Goldin C, Katz L (1999) Human capital and social capital: the rise of secondary schooling in America, 1910–1940. J Interdiscipl Hist 29:683–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gradstein M, Justman M (2000) Human capital social capital and public schooling. Eur Econ Rev 44:879–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Granovetter MS (1973) The strength of weak ties. Am J Sociol 78:1360–1380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Granovetter M (1982) The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. In: Marsden PV, Lin N (eds) Social structure and network analysis. Sage, Beverly Hills, pp 105–130Google Scholar
  43. Granovetter M (1985) Economic action and social structure: the problem of embeddedness. Am J Sociol 91(2):481–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Granovetter M (2005) The impact of social structure on economic outcomes. J Econ Perspect 19(1):33–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Griliches Z (1979) Issues in assessing the contribution of research and development to productivity growth. Bell J Econ 10:92–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Griliches Z (1986) Productivity, R & D, and the basic research at the firm level in the 1970s. Am Econ Rev 76:141–154Google Scholar
  47. Guiso L, Sapienza P, Zingales L (2004) The role of social capital in financial development. Am Econ Rev 94(3):526–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Guiso L, Sapienza P, Zingales L (2008) Long term persistence, mimeoGoogle Scholar
  49. Guiso L, Sapienza P, Zingales L (2010) Civil capital as the missing link, NBER Working Paper 15845Google Scholar
  50. Hauser C, Tappeiner G, Walde J (2007) The leraning region: the impact of social capital and weak ties on innovation. Reg Stud 41(1):75–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ichino A, Maggi G (2000) Work environment and individual background: explaining regional shirking differentials in a large Italian firm. Q J Econ 115:1057–1090CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Jaffe A (1986) Technological opportunity and spillovers of R&D: evidence from firms’ patents, profits and market value. Am Econ Rev 76:984–1001Google Scholar
  53. Kallio A, Harmaakoorpi V, Pihkala T (2009) Absorptive capacity and social capital in regional innovation system: the case of the Lahti region in Finland. Urban Stud 47:303–319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Knack S, Keefer P (1997) Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. Q J Econ 112(4):1252–1288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kostiainen J (2002) Urban economic development policy in the network society. Tekniikan akateemisten liitto, TampereGoogle Scholar
  56. La Porta R, Lopez de Silanes F, Shleifer A, Vishny RW (1997) Trust in large organizations. Am Econ Rev 87(2):333–338Google Scholar
  57. Laursen K, Masciarelli F (2007) The effect of regional social capital and external knowledge acquisition on process and product innovation, DRUID working paperGoogle Scholar
  58. Levin D, Cross R (2004) The strength of weak ties you can trust: the mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer. Manage Sci 50:1477–1490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lundvall B (1992) Introduction. In: Lundvall B-Å (ed) National systems of innovation. Towards a theory of innovation and interactive learning. Pinter Publishers, LondonGoogle Scholar
  60. Markusen A (1999) Fuzzy concepts scanty evidence, policy distance: the case for rigour and policy relevance in critical regional studies. Reg Stud 33:869–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Morgan K (1997) The learning region: institutions innovation and regional renewal. Reg Stud 31:491–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. O’huallachain B, Leslie T (2007) Rethinking the regional knowledge production function. J Econ Geo 7(6):737–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Overman H (2004) Can we learn anything from economic geography proper? J Econ Geogr 4:501–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Patton D, Kenney M (2003) Innovation and social capital in Silicon Valley, BRIE Working Paper 155Google Scholar
  65. Percoco M (2010a) Path dependence, institutions and the density of economic activities: evidence from Italian cities, FEEM Working Paper N. 110Google Scholar
  66. Percoco M (2010b) Geography, institutions and urban development: Italian cities 1300–1861, Università Bocconi, mimeoGoogle Scholar
  67. Ponds R, van Oort F, Frenken K (2010) Innovation, spillovers and university–industry collaboration: an extended knowledge production function approach. J Econ Geogr 10(2):231–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Portes A, Landolt P (1996) The downside of social capital. Am Prospect 94(26):18–21Google Scholar
  69. Putnam R (1993) Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  70. Ramella F, Trigilia C (2009) Le strategie dell’innovazione. Indagine sui brevetti europei delle imprese italiane. Econ Polit Ind 36(2):199–213Google Scholar
  71. Rodriguez-Pose A (1999) Innovation prone and innovation averse societies: economic performance in Europe. Growth Change 30:75–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rodríguez-Pose A, Crescenzi R (2008) R&D, spillovers, innovation systems and the genesis of regional growth in Europe. Reg Stud 42(1):51–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rodriguez-Pose A, Storper M (2006) Better rules or stronger communities? On the social foundations of institutional change and its economic effects. Econ Geogr 82(1):1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Rogers EM (1995) Diffusion of innovations, 4th edn. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  75. Ruef M (2002) Strong ties, weak ties and Islands: structural and cultural predictors of organizational innovation. Ind Corp Change 11:427–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sabatini F (2009) Il Capitale Sociale nelle Regioni Italiane: un’Analisi Comparata. Rev Polit Econ 99:167–220Google Scholar
  77. Solow R (1999) Notes on social capital and economic performance. In: Dasgupta P, Serageldin I (eds) Social capital: a multifaceted perspective. World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  78. Storper M (2005) Society, community and economic development. Stud Comp Econ Dev 39(4):30–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tura T, Harmaakorpi V (2005) Social capital in building regional innovative capability. Reg Stud 39:1111–1125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Varga A (1998) University research and regional innovation. Kluwer, BostonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Woolcock M (1998) Social capital and economic development: toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. Theor Soc 27(2):151–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Riccardo Crescenzi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luisa Gagliardi
    • 1
  • Marco Percoco
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environment & SERCLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management and CERTeTUniversità BocconiMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations