Technology and industrial clusters

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Science and Public Policy, 37(9), November 2010, pages 679–688 DOI: 10.3152/030234210X12778118264413;

Technology and industrial clusters: how different are they to manage?
Michele Coletti

Industrial districts and clusters have long been known for their positive contribution to local development. In recent years, inspired by successfulexamples such as the Silicon Valley, many local government and public agencies in Europe and elsewhere have started to launch initiatives to develop technology clusters in selected locations. Usually, cluster initiatives are carried out by ad hoc cluster organisations. These are intermediate bodies employing people in charge of animating clusters, the socalled cluster managers. This work deals withthe activities carried out by cluster managers and the competences required by them. It also investigates the differences between the management of technology and industrial clusters. The main source has been the secondary analysis of results from the largest survey in this field carried out in Europe to date.


OR A LONG TIME, districts and clusters have been noticed by sociologists andeconomists, but it is only in the last two decades that many policy-makers have begun to actively nurture their growth as a way to spur local economic development. As long ago as in 1890 the economist Alfred Marshall introduced the concept of the industrial district and identified the advantages of the co-location of firms. Becattini and Bellandi (2006) describe districts of traditional industriesas characterised by several populations/typologies of specialised and autonomous enterprises covering various stages of a

Michele Coletti is Affiliate Professor at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, 12, rue Pierre Sémard, 38003 Grenoble, France; Email:; Tel: + 39 02 6698 7978. The author thanks two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on an earlierversion of this paper; he is particularly indebted to Ms Simone Hagenauer of Ecoplus, and to the coordinators of the CEE-Cluster Network project (EU ProInno® Initiative), who kindly agreed to carry out extra elaborations to suit the scope of this research, and to their collaborators at KMU Forschung Austria for elaborating data under his instructions. The author owes sincere gratitude to ProfessorPeter Augsdorfer for his generous guidance during this research and for the encouragement to publish it. The usual disclaimers apply.

productive network. These firms tend to be aggregated in ‘open squads’ which internally exchange knowledge and work together to produce collective goods, but if necessary they can source to external firms. Other features of districts are specific public goods,integrating labour division and coordinating manufacturers. Porter prefers to define clusters as ‘geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field’, affirming that competitive advantages in a global economy depend on local factors such as ‘knowledge, relationships, motivation’ (1998a). Advanced clusters are supposed to have a strong internal rivalrywhich shifts the basis of competition from low wages to low total cost (Porter, 1998b). On the other hand, many examples of thriving clusters show that cooperation is a success factor for innovation, particularly among research organisations and companies such as start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (OECD, 2007). While today there seems to be little doubt about the positivecorrelation between cluster competitiveness and economic growth, concern remains about the effectiveness of policies aimed at cluster development, due also to their relative newness (Porter, 2007). This article does not discuss the usefulness of clusters and cluster policies, but tries to explain how the work of their managers can be more effective.

Science and Public Policy November 2010...
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