iBegin is a researchers network with the overall aim to develop a holistic view of the organization of economic activity across space. The activities are mainly developed through the annual iBegin conference being organized by Temple University.
Each year the conference is hosted and co-organized by a different local chair and co-organizer. This year the iBegin travels to the home of some of some of the worlds largest shipping companies, Copenhagen, to be hosted at Copenhagen Business School by CBS Maritime.
The theme of the 2019 conference is `Ports versus Portals: International Connectivity and the Bundling of Tangibles and Intangibles´ with a focus on transportation by sea as well as by air.
About iBegin 2019
Long before information technology began to play a significant role in international business, another type of network undergirded the global economy: transportation networks. While it is well-known that modern international business dates to the dawn of the industrial revolution in the 18th century (Hummels, 2007), the role of the transportation infrastructure, beginning with the clipper ships that carried tea from ports in China and India to the pool of London, has long been `taken for granted´.
Recent studies add that physical port heterogeneity is taking a new turn. Rather than serving as vertically integrated hubs that compete with one another, but differ in quality and price, seaports are increasingly specializing in particular horizontal niches (Jacobs & Lagendijk, 2014). They are collaborating with each other to offer complementary regional logistics solutions, resulting in increased efficiency. Other studies point out that the cost of moving tangibles is not only a function of infrastructure, but also by industrial organization forces. The ownership of multiple ports by multinational entities that implement regional rationalization strategies reinforces the process of port complementarity (Hall & Jacobs, 2010). At the same time, a high proportion of maritime liner shipping is priced by conferences, facilitating collusion and anti-competitive pricing (Hummels et al., 2009). This is a response to persistent over-capacity and repeated Bertrand-type “race-to-the-bottom” experiences of the major industry players (Wu, 2012). There is similar evidence of anti-competitive behavior in air transport (Micco & Serebrisky, 2006).
Nonetheless, few studies have jointly analyzed the physical and digital infrastructural networks and their link with global knowledge and value creation, even though we have established that co- terminus nature of these networks. Our reading of the current literatures leads us to conclude that this lacuna may be the result of the disciplinary focus of most research. Hence we would like to expect inter-, multi-, and cross-disciplinary approaches to yield important new insights. The foundational disciplines of iBEGIN (international business, economic geography and innovation studies) form the starting point, but we expect that this exercise will also be informed by many others like international economics and supply chain management.
There are a number of crucial questions that we believe are important for both theory and policy:
- How dependent are intangibles on tangibles for their value creation? Are these tangibles disproportionately sourced locally or imported?
- How important is goods trade for inter-firm knowledge transfer?
- How does a location’s maritime and air connectivity matter for its innovation performance and international innovation partnerships?
- How has the structure of the maritime and air transport network evolved, and why?
- Have maritime ports and clusters changed their international connectivity strategies in the era of global value chains?
- What are the internationalization strategies of multinational port operators, shipping lines and air cargo companies?
- What policies should governments adopt to strengthen their locations’ logistics performance in the era of global value chains?
The research avenues mentioned above are of course only a few of the many possible investigations. In addition to the conference theme, all papers that address the more general iBEGIN research agenda, both theoretical and empirical, are welcome.
The best papers from the conference will be considered for a special issue of the Journal of Economic Geography.
About the iBegin Research Network
iBEGIN research is aimed at integrating and leveraging three diverse research streams in order to develop a holistic view of the organization of economic activity across space. The research stems from the constituent literatures that form the acronym – International Business, Economic Geography, and Innovation. The research themes addressed by the iBegin network are:
- Connectivity across space is the “invisible web” that underlies all human civilization
- Social networking and innovation are the two most important elements of the human creative experience.
- Human economic connectivity appears in two generic forms – structured routines and serendipitous inter-actions.
For more information on iBegin, visit the Temple website.