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What can experience with clusters teach us about fostering regional smart specialisation?


  • María José Aranguren Querejeta

    (Orkestra-Basque Institute of Competitiveness and Deusto Business School)

  • James R. Wilson

    (Orkestra-Basque Institute of Competitiveness and Deusto Business School)


The new orientation of regional innovation policies in Europe requires the development of research and innovation smart specialisation strategies (RIS3) so as to support Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) investments where there are clear synergies with existing productive capacities and capabilities. RIS3 are advocated in a context where most European regions have established ‘cluster’ policies that seek to facilitate relationships of cooperation between firms and other institutions working in related areas and that share much common ground with the underlying principles of RIS3. Developing and refining RIS3 in theory and practice therefore raises important questions regarding how they relate to clusters and indeed what can be learned from the more established practice of cluster policies for the design and implementation of policies supporting RIS3. The aim of this paper is to explore the links between these two policy agendas. Key synergies among them are explored in the context of each of the steps in Foray et al.’s (2012) Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation and by drawing on two decades of experience with cluster policy in the Basque Country. The paper signals several concrete areas where regional policy-makers might look to their existing cluster policies and clusters when seeking to articulate new regional processes towards smart specialisation strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • María José Aranguren Querejeta & James R. Wilson, 2013. "What can experience with clusters teach us about fostering regional smart specialisation?," EKONOMIAZ. Revista vasca de Economía, Gobierno Vasco / Eusko Jaurlaritza / Basque Government, vol. 83(02), pages 127-174.
  • Handle: RePEc:ekz:ekonoz:2013206

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rolf Sternberg & Matthias Kiese & Dennis Stockinger, 2010. "Cluster Policies in the US and Germany: Varieties of Capitalism Perspective on Two High-Tech States," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 28(6), pages 1063-1082, December.
    2. Edurne Magro Montero & Mari Jose Aranguren & Mikel Navarro, 2011. "Smart Specialisation Strategies: The Case of the Basque Country," Working Papers 2011R07, Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness.
    3. Susana Borrás & Dimitrios Tsagdis, 2008. "Cluster Policies in Europe," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 4134.
    4. Edurne Magro Montero & Mari Jose Aranguren & Mikel Navarro, 2011. "Estrategias de especialización inteligente: el caso del País Vasco," Working Papers 2011R06, Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness.
    5. María José Aranguren Querejeta & Miren Larrea Aranguren & James R. Wilson, 2010. "Trayectorias de cambio en la gobernanza: experiencias en asociaciones ‘cluster’ y redes comarcales en el País Vasco," EKONOMIAZ. Revista vasca de Economía, Gobierno Vasco / Eusko Jaurlaritza / Basque Government, vol. 74(02), pages 160-177.
    6. Ron Martin & Peter Sunley, 2003. "Deconstructing clusters: chaotic concept or policy panacea?," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 5-35, January.
    7. Flanagan, Kieron & Uyarra, Elvira & Laranja, Manuel, 2011. "Reconceptualising the 'policy mix' for innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 702-713, June.
    8. Roger Sugden & Ping Wei & James R. Wilson, 2006. "Clusters, governance and the development of local economies: a framework for case studies," Chapters, in: Christos Pitelis & Roger Sugden & James R. Wilson (ed.), Clusters and Globalisation, chapter 3, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Philip McCann & Raquel Ortega-Argilés, 2011. "Smart specialisation, regional growth and applications to EU cohesion policy," Working Papers 2011/14, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
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    Cited by:

    1. Ida Grundel & Margareta Dahlström, 2016. "A Quadruple and Quintuple Helix Approach to Regional Innovation Systems in the Transformation to a Forestry-Based Bioeconomy," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 7(4), pages 963-983, December.
    2. Borrás, Susana & Jordana, Jacint, 2016. "When Regional Innovation Policies Meet Policy Rationales and Evidence: A Plea for Policy Analysis," Papers in Innovation Studies 2016/12, Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy.

    More about this item


    Smart specialisation; regional strategies; clusters; cluster policy; policy inertia;

    JEL classification:

    • O23 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Development
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • R58 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Regional Development Planning and Policy


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