University of Tasmania
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Constructing regional advantage in the Australian maritime industry : insights from the Perth metropolitan region and Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:01 authored by Djoumessi, MA
Various models for promoting regional industrial innovation have been proposed over the years. One of the most influential and recent of these is the theoretical framework of constructing regional advantage (CRA), which promotes the competitiveness through product differentiation in a regional industry. A fundamental underpinning of this framework is that regional advantage does not occur automatically in clusters of related firms as previously established in the literature. Instead, it can be triggered through proactive partnerships between public and private actors. Extant applications of this framework have revealed two shortcomings. The first relates to its lack of focus on the firm level, though the firm is the central actor in the framework. The second relates to its modelling on metropolitan regions characterised by agglomerations and urbanisations economies, making its application to non-metropolitan regions difficult. In addressing these limitations, this thesis proposes a reconceptualisation of the CRA model and empirically tests it in the Australian maritime industry. The geographic locations of the empirical testing are the Perth metropolitan region (Western Australia) and Tasmania, host to two maritime clusters. This thesis aims to explore the activities and barriers to innovation in maritime firms, identify the factors influential for constructing regional advantage, investigate whether differences exist in the two regions regarding the determinants of the innovation process of maritime firms, and provides a comprehensive framework for constructing regional advantage in the maritime industry in these regions. This thesis adopts a convergent mixed methods research methodology, consisting of a web-survey and telephone interviews with participants from the two selected regions. Quantitative data of 54 survey responses were analysed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and the Chi-square test of independence. Techniques used for analysing qualitative data of 34 interview transcripts include word count, classical content analysis and template analysis. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 24 assisted in the analysis of quantitative data while the computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software NVivo version 11 helped to organise and analyse qualitative data. A key outcome of the quantitative findings is the emergence of the demand factor, which is not a building block of the initial CRA framework developed within the literature. A key outcome from the qualitative findings is the identification of a new theme, triggers for innovation‚ÄövÑvp. Four triggers were identified, two of which are proactive (adding value to stakeholders and the desire for competitiveness) and the other two being reactive (customers' requests or demands and day to day challenges). The merged results show that four factors are influential for constructing regional advantage in the maritime industry in the studied regions. They are regional factors, knowledge sourcing factors, innovation capability factors and demand factors. The emergence of demand as a factor as well as a trigger for innovation is a significant finding of this thesis, as the initial CRA framework is supply driven. It is also found that maritime firms in both regions are actively engaged in innovation and recognise the importance of innovation to distance themselves from competition. Maritime firms in the Perth metropolitan have a location advantage (in terms of access to skilled labour and proximity to suppliers, customers and to similar and other industries) over their Tasmanian counterparts. Nonetheless, this location advantage does not ultimately result in great discrepancy in terms of their innovation outputs compared to those of maritime firms in Tasmania. Based on these results, this thesis argues that the integration of supply and demand measures in a single framework is a sine qua none of constructing regional advantage in the maritime industry in the studied Australian regions. Public procurement for innovation, demand subsidies and regulations were identified as potential demand tools for triggering the innovation process of maritime firms. This thesis makes several contributions to the literature on regional industrial competitiveness. In connection with theory, it provides a more comprehensive CRA framework that not only connects demand and supply, but also includes a firm level dimension. The framework is generic in nature and connects three different disciplines (economic geography, innovation management and regional development), paving the way for multi-disciplinary applications. With respect to methodology, this thesis introduces the mixed method approach to the constructing regional advantage literature. The thesis also adds to the limited number of a mixed method innovation studies. Furthermore, it is the first introduction of the CRA framework to maritime studies and its first application to the Australian setting. In practice, the thesis provides policy makers in the studied regions with a clear set of guidelines for constructing regional advantage in the maritime industry. Policy makers in other countries might also use these guidelines as a starting point for constructing regional industrial advantage in their regions.


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