Heritage and satellite manufacturing: firm-level competitiveness and the management of risk in global production networks

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This article explores the role that product- and firm-centered heritage plays as an advantage creating resource and competitive dynamic in contributing to minimizing risks for firms in Global Production Networks (GPN). Research on the management of risk has been identified as critical for developing an understanding of the underlying determinants of GPN. In the satellite industry, key risks relate to launch, extreme conditions in outer space, and challenges concerning repair. These risks are minimized by the development and management of heritage. Heritage is a reputational asset founded on proven technology embedded in products and/or firm-based relationships that have values or associations that accumulate and are passed down over time. The risks associated with the space sector are extreme; however, heritage also plays an important but unacknowledged role in other economic sectors, including shipping, nuclear energy, rail, medical technologies, and aviation. The article adds to the economic geography literature in three ways. First, it highlights the central role that regulators and insurance providers play in defining market imperatives for GPN. Second, it identifies and explores heritage as a reputational asset, providing both a source of competitiveness and a competitive dynamic influencing firm-based routines and interfirm relationships. Third, it provides the first in-depth analysis of the satellite industry in the context of heritage—a sector that impacts on the everyday activities of government agencies, citizens, and firms. This analysis of heritage is based on eighty in-depth interviews with representatives from across the UK space sector
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-441
Number of pages19
JournalEconomic Geography
Issue number5
Early online date2 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2019


  • risk
  • heritage
  • competitive advantage
  • competitive dynamic
  • GPN


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