Cluster policies are considered increasingly important for supporting the development of clusters. However, not all clusters have the same preconditions and needs for policy initiatives to stimulate their performance and development. In this chapter it is argued that the role of cluster policies differs between sectors and regions depending on particular framework conditions and development factors that might also change over time. On the firm-level, the role of cluster policies seems to be even more diverse since particular firm needs and problems vary according to the companies’ main activities, age and size. Concepts on cluster policy and cluster life cycles have disregarded such a differentiated role of cluster policies and its effects on cluster firms so far. We investigate the environmental technology cluster in Upper Austria and the new media cluster in Vienna from this perspective. Both clusters differ with regard to the role of cluster policies. While in the former policy has a stronger role and policy actors have tried to actively support funding and network initiatives, the latter seemed to be less dependent on policy activities and more shaped by related industry developments.
Alexander Auer and Franz Tödtling
Knut Koschatzky, Henning Kroll, Esther Schnabl and Thomas Stahlecker
While the cluster concept is foremost based on the economic principle of localization economies and cluster policies interpret this principle in several ways, smart specialization is a political tool, although the idea of the advantages of specialized economic activities is one of its basic constituents. Nevertheless, the difference in its objectives compared to the cluster concept lies in the fact that smart specialization introduces new approaches to designing regional innovation policy which focus more effectively on specific regions’ actual potentials. The objective of this chapter is to analyse the coexistence, competition and interdependence of cluster and smart specialization policies in Germany. We present evidence from four German Länder (federal states) in order to demonstrate that due to a common national policy framework and a common set of institutions affecting the regional innovation systems, variations in cluster policy and the implementation of smart specialization strategies are possible. At the end of the chapter we derive some general conclusions about the interdependence of both approaches beyond the German context.
Elvira Uyarra and Ronnie Ramlogan
The phenomenon of clusters has attracted much interest over recent years, both from academics who seek to understand their workings and policymakers who seek to emulate their apparent success. However, while numerous studies have sought to examine their characteristics, their performance and how they may be supported, particularly in regard of those clusters that occur ‘naturally’, little evidence is available on the nature and the impact of policies that have been implemented with the goal of fostering clusters. Thus, policy learning in this area is sparse. We endeavour to address this evidence gap, by reviewing the evolving rationales underpinning cluster policy and the challenges associated with their implementation and evaluation. The chapter concludes with some general lessons and implications.
Markus Grillitsch and Bjørn T. Asheim
The literature on cluster evolution suggests that heterogeneity of firm capabilities and openness of network structures are essential for the renewal of mature and declining clusters. This chapter argues that the regional and institutional context in which clusters are embedded plays an important role for the renewal of clusters. It elaborates how the integration of institutional variety can stimulate the combination of different types of knowledge, learning and modes of innovation, thereby promoting cluster renewal. The conceptual argument is illustrated with a case study of the maritime cluster in Møre og Romsdal, Norway, which is one of the globally leading clusters in this industry. We find that key actors and policy play an important role in integrating institutional variety. Additionally, the case shows that institutional variety and the integration thereof can be a driving force for cluster renewal even in specialized and semi-peripheral locations.
Gerd Meier zu Köcker and Thomas Lämmer-Gamp
Cluster policies are to be understood as framework policies rather than as “hands-on” interventionist policies that pretend to know the future better than the market. Due to increasing globalisation and industrial transformation, the challenges that cluster policymakers and programme owners face are significant. Policy approaches that have worked well over many years are no longer applicable in the future. A future-oriented cluster policy has to support both “places” and “issues”, like the new value chains that interlink companies of different branches. When new industries emerge and new value chains develop, new capabilities are becoming increasingly important, among others innovation culture, innovation infrastructure, and innovation speed. The paper attempts to set up core design features of future cluster policies in order to better cope with upcoming challenges. It also looks at the implications for regions pondering how to design and implement their smart specialization strategies for better regional economic growth.
Michael Rothgang and Bernhard Lageman
While the features of cluster development have caught a lot of interest in the research literature on cluster policy, cluster initiatives have rarely received researchers’ attention up to now. Cluster initiatives are no natural component of cluster evolution, but have developed as a result of cluster policies as intermediary organisations. They operate as mediators between the cluster population and the cluster programme administrators and also facilitate the coordination between cluster actors. This contribution asks for the origin and development patterns of cluster initiatives which are analysed by looking at Germany’s Spitzenclusters, the initiatives funded by the federal programme Spitzencluster-Wettbewerb (Leading-Edge Clusters Competition). Starting from a life-cycle model of cluster initiatives that distinguishes five development stages, we find that the Spitzencluster initiatives essentially followed rather similar cyclical development paths. The patterns of public financial support and the set of regulations imposed on the initiatives by the programme turned out to be the most important factors that influenced the evolution of the clusters initiatives. Multiple other internal and external influences like international competition, interaction between cluster actor representatives, or decisions of core firms in the clusters were responsible for the differences observed within the group of the Spitzenclusters. All in all, we find that peculiarities of cluster programmes strongly influence the shape and duration of the initiatives’ developmental cycles.
This chapter takes the bankruptcy in 2012 of the leading cluster-building consultancy firm Monitor, founded by academic business guru Michael Porter, as a significant inflection point in the trajectory of clusters as a panacea for local and regional economic development policy. The origins of the ‘cluster craze’ are shown to lie in the marketing of a kind of discourse or narrative by Monitor and numerous smaller outfits to the effect that cluster-building was easy because they actually existed and in studying them academics and consultants had found their secret ingredients. For sometimes astonishingly high fees, these secrets would in turn be divulged. Normally missing from such portfolios were social anthropologies of the actual mechanisms by which thriving clusters (or their predecessors, ‘industrial districts’) succeeded while others failed. Rather, economists relied on concentration indices, assuming that proximity in econometric space was the main ingredient. In the first main section, the ‘cluster idea’ is reviewed and attention drawn to flawed policy practices relying on the ‘discourse’ approach to cluster-building. This is contrasted with growth performance in clusters that exist materially. The performance of the latter is found to be superior. Next, the undermining of the cluster narrative by critique of the poor definitions, methodologies and actual performance of policy-induced clusters is narrated, illustrated with a particularly severe critique by The Economist. Attention is then re-focused away from the ‘discursive’ approach towards the material one, and an analysis is provided of processes of cluster evolution following divergent pathways in search of ‘platform’ variety. The argument for the demise of cluster-thinking and promotion, but clustering’s absorption, in reality, into path inter-dependent and diversifying evolution is reiterated in the conclusions. These caution against contemporary and pervasive policy advocacy of specialization-driven economic development of any kind.
Dieter Rehfeld and Juergen Nordhause-Janz
This chapter analyses the transformation of regional economic structures in the Ruhr Area, an old industrial area. We discuss these transformation processes in the contest of global (macro), regional, sectoral (meso) and actor-orientated constellations and dynamics. We concentrate our argumentation on the phase of restructuring in cluster development and on modes of reintegration in the regional economic structure of the Ruhr Area. We argue that, in the case of the Ruhr Area, processes of decoupling and fragmentation have been inevitable stages in the reorientation and reformation of regional clusters over time. At the same time regional and sectoral differences of sub-regions have led to greater variations in the overall economic structure of the Ruhr Area. In discussing different phases of regional political interventions and cluster and networking initiatives, we look at the interplay of political measures to support regional economic change and market driven strategies of individual companies and on its impact for regional cluster transformation. And last but not least, we ask for lessons to be learned for cluster politics and regional smart specialization strategies and point to some open theoretical and empirical questions on processes of decline and restructuring during cluster life cycles.
Despite the widespread public interest in cluster policy development, learning effects that link between cluster initiatives (CIs) in the same region, yet across different industrial sector groups, have rarely been investigated by academic scholars. This chapter proposes that a ‘clusterscape’ composed of various cluster initiatives that target different economic sectors in the same region provide the breeding ground for specific dynamics and advantages of collaborative learning. The interference between different CIs, which is facilitated by spatial, institutional and social proximity, is therefore assumed to shape regional cluster policy cycles as well as cluster cycle dynamics. The chapter first suggests a conceptual categorization of learning options between CIs catering to different industry topics locally. Then empirical underpinnings are provided, relating to the regional cases of Upper Austria (Austria) and Aachen (Germany), which juxtaposes a centralized institutional approach of inter-sectoral cluster support and the decentralized setting of an ‘ecosystem’ of independently interacting CIs. Eventually, potential influences of regional inter-CI learning on cluster (policy) cycle dynamics are discussed.