The clustering of innovative industry both demands and creates a highly skilled local labour market. The growth of this agglomeration of labour, it has been argued, benefits both individuals and firms by providing the opportunity for matching labour demand with labour supply, which is crucial to sustaining innovation. Additionally, mobility within the local labour market is argued to be of collective benefit as the movement of the highly skilled within the cluster is a key mechanism for technology transfer and fostering of interfirm links. Social networks (social capital) are argued in the literature to be the medium by which these activities are facilitated and the development of which is key to innovation-based local economic development. This is exemplified by Silicon Valley. To examine the universality of these assumptions, this article explores the development of social networks among scientists and engineers in the high-technology local economies of Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Drawing on the results of a postal survey of the engineers, physicists and chemists in the local labour markets of these regions carried out between November 2000 and March 2001, the article considers the networking behaviour of the highly skilled, focusing on the composition and spatial reach of their networks. It concludes that the importance of local networks should not be overstated on the basis that there are distinct differences within two seemingly similar locations and within the professional associations.
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