Interorganizational Relations, Proximity, and Innovation: The Case of the Aeronautics Sector in Montreal

Article excerpt


Local interorganizational relations are crucial in aeronautics. On the basis of an empirical research carried out in Montreal, this paper addresses the role of proximity within the construction of these interorganizational relations and analyses how these relations are structured, which actors are crucial for their construction, and to what extent they foster innovation. The paper shows that aeronautics in Montreal is characterized by a dense network structured by prime contractors and intermediate organizations and a strong sense of belonging. Diverse forms of proximity shape the aeronautics sector in Montreal, with the specific characteristics of the sector (strong vertical integration and major spatial concentration of the productive chains) and of the place, in this case Montreal (priority to partnership, presence of intermediate organizations), are converging and contributing to the building of an innovative system at the metropolitan scale.

Keywords: aeronautics, Montreal, network, proximity, innovation system, governance


Les relations locales entre les organisations sont cruciales dans l'aeronautique. Sur la base d'une recherche empirique mende a Montreal, cet article aborde le role de la proximite dans la construction de ces relations et analyse la maniere dont ces relations sont structurees, quels sont les acteurs cles pour leur construction, et dans quelle mesure ils favorisent l'innovation. L'article montre que l'aeronautique a Montreal se caracterise par un reseau dense structure par les donneurs d'ordre et les organismes intermediaires et d'un fort sentiment d'appartenance. Diverses formes de proximite structurent le secteur de l'aeronautique a Montreal, combinees aux caracteristiques specifiques du secteur (integration verticale forte et la concentration spatiale importante des chaines productives) et a celles du territoire de Montreal (importance du partenariat, la presence d'organismes intermediaires), contribuant a la construction d'un systeme d'innovation a l'echelle metropolitaine.

Mots cles: Aeronautique, Montreal, Reseau, proximite, systeme d'innovation, gouvernance


The aeronautics industry requires a very high level of technological competence, in turn requiring ongoing innovation. This challenge calls for the continuous mobilization of resources and major R&D investments (Ravix 2000). Strong international competition moreover requires businesses in the sector to stay at the cutting edge of technology and to achieve productivity increases by creating new products and by developing new production techniques. The innovation process, being long and costly, relies heavily on interorganizational relations and the cohabitation of actors (e.g., intermediate organizations, universities, R&D centres) that can advance knowledge production, knowledge transfer, and innovation.

Aeronautics is thus an industry where proximity and local interorganizational relations are crucial. Diverse authors point to the fact that this sector is concentrated in urban centres, such as Toulouse, Seattle, and Montreal where entrepreneurs find advantages of scale and of proximity (Scott and Mattingly 1989; Jalabert and Zuliani 2009; Benzler and Wink 2010). In Montreal, for example, the aeronautics sector can find the conditions for establishing interrelations between many types of actors: public actors, private businesses, and intermediate actors (e.g., research centres, industrial associations, schools, universities, unions, local governance bodies). These interrelations are facilitated by proximity. The object of this paper is to analyze, for one, the role of proximity within the construction of these interorganizational relations, and secondly, how these relations are structured, which actors are crucial for their construction, and to what extent they foster innovation.

Social innovation networks and social capital

The link between interorganizational relations and innovation must be examined within the broader context of the relation between "the social" and innovation. …