“Industry cluster” refers to the concentration of firms in a given industry sector along with related suppliers, service providers, research institutes, all within close geographical proximity. The relationship between firms making up a given industry cluster is one of “co-opetition”, a neologism coined by Porter (1998) to describe a mixture of cooperation and competition. As noted by Yamamoto, K (2016), industry clusters 24 benefits SMEs in a number of ways. SMEs could take advantage of not only reduced R&D and manufacturing costs, but also the stimulus for competition and market development. Industry clusters also facilitate the development of stable transactional relationships based on a mutually beneficial division of labour and the building of collaboration based on trust25. Currently, there is no specific cluster or platform that enables SMEs in the textile and garment manufacturing industry to cooperate and connect with one another. By encouraging cooperation and competition, an industry cluster in textile and garment manufacturing would go a long way in addressing many of the challenges faced by SMEs.
Como Textiles offers a successful example of resource sharing in marketing. A textile manufacturing town in Italy’s northern region near the fashion capital of Milan, Como Textiles was for many years one of Italy’s main luxury textile clusters. However, in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, the factories went through a period of downturn in 2009, as turnover declined by 25% from the previous year. Compared to 177 workshops in 2001, only 158 survived in 2009. Over the same period, the number of garment factories under Como decreased from 650 to 482. However, the situation has taken a 26 turn for the better since the introduction of a new cooperation model, Neo seta di Como, in 2009. Devised by a young man named Simone Tettamanti, this model encourages individual enterprises in the cluster to cooperate in developing the textile market by offering specialised products. Following this model, textile enterprises in Como have since made a swift recovery, with a turnover in the Como cluster increasing from 1.4 million euros to 4. 0 million euros in the past few years.
Operating on a small island with a high population density, industrial clusters is but one way for Taiwanese SMEs to connect with one another, and indeed wider society. .For example, the Service Design Network (SDN) was set up to promote the relatively new discipline of service design by fostering links between academia and industry. The SDN acts as a bridge that links together companies, schools and individuals to create a community of service design experts and enthusiasts. By hosting regular gatherings and seminars and also facilitating resource sharing, cluster groups such as the SDN provide a platform for interested parties to raise societal awareness of their industry. Crucially, they provide manufacturing SMEs with a successful model of engaging with each other and wider society.