Improving upon Nature : Creating Competitive Advantage in Ceramic Tile Clusters in Italy, Spain and Brazil

This paper shows how using a combination of a cluster and a global value chain approach helps to assess local competitive strategies and upgrading possibilities. The global ceramic tile industry is dominated by two industrial clusters, Sassuolo in Italy and Castellón in Spain, which are not only dominating tile production in their respective countries and in Europe but are also the global tech-nology leaders and the leading exporters. The Italian tile manufacturers are closely linked with capital goods manufacturers, the Spanish with producers of glazing materials. The equipment and materials producers drive technical change and innovation in tile design, whereas the tile manu-facturers try to establish a competitive advantage in particular by innovating in downstream ac-tivities: training tilers, establishing diversified brands for different sales channels, and going into direct sales. Analyzing the value chain, from inputs and capital goods to final sales, offers new in-sights into scope and alternatives of local upgrading. It also helps to reassess the competitiveness of tile clusters in the developing world. This is done for Brazil’s leading cluster which is located in Santa Catarina. Tile firms there can benefit from the fierce rivalry among Italian capital goods producers and among Spanish producers of glazing materials, as well as the rivalry between Italy and Spain. They are technology followers. However, having to deal with a volatile and very com-petitive market, they are innovative in downstream activities, experimenting with concepts which are not yet used by Italian or Spanish manufacturers.


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