Regarding the EC in the broadest sense, clusters can be defined as regional concentrations of specialized companies and institutions connected through multiple linkages. However, other definitions are used as well, depending on the context and purpose of the discussion. In particular, it seems to be important to clearly distinguish between clusters, cluster policies and cluster initiatives. Whereas clusters are a real economic phenomenon that can be economically measured, cluster policies are more an expression of political commitment to support existing clusters or the emergence of new clusters. Cluster initiatives are practical actions to strengthen cluster development, which can, but must not necessarily be, based on a formulated cluster policy
The OECD defines clusters as a geographic concentration of firms, higher education and research institutions, and other public and private entities which favours collaboration on complementary economic activities.
Formal definitions of clusters may vary, but many experts agree with economic expert and Harvard professor, Michael Porter’s 1 definition that a cluster is defined as a geographic concentration of inter-connected companies and institutions working in a common industry. In addition, clusters encompass an array of collaborating and competing services and providers that create a specialized infrastructure, which supports the cluster’s industry. Finally, clusters draw upon a shared talent pool of specialized skilled labor.
According to the Clusters Policies White-book, the clustering is generally defined as a process of firms and other actors co-locating within a concentrated geographical area, cooperating around a certain functional niche, and establishing close linkages and working alliances to improve their collective competitiveness. The concept is related to, but goes beyond, that of agglomeration or co-location of related activities.
Whereas co-location may be associated with favourable external effects that are not intended but rather incidental (Mishan 2 ), joint strategies and actions motivated by the anticipation of mutual benefits are greatly important in clustering. Until recently, the process was nevertheless viewed as exogenously determined, that is, from the viewpoint of a policymaker, a member of an industry or a resident in a region or a nation; you were lucky if you had it, or were part of it.
The cooperation between clusters and research organizations should be part of the strategic approach of each – university, member companies and cluster (further also region and industry). FIRE has been working on giving directions to clusters on how to stimulate and improve innovation pull-through. These guidelines highlight the enablers which need to be fulfilled, the most common barriers and the success stories.
1. PORTER, Michael E. CLUSTERS of INNOVATION: Regional Foundations of U.S. Competitiveness. October 2001. Monitor Group ontheFRONTIER Council on Competitiveness. SBN 1-889866-23-7↩
2. MISHAN EJ. Cost-benefit analysis: and informal introduction, London: Allen & Unwin, 1971↩