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The Elusive Concept of Localization Economies: Towards a Knowledge-Based Theory of Spatial Clustering

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  • Anders Malmberg

    (Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University, PO Box 513, S-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden)

  • Peter Maskell

    (Danish Research Unit for Industrial Dynamics (DRUID), Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy (IVS), Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Howitzvej 60, DK-2000 Frederiksberg C, Denmark and Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), Langelinie Allé 17, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark)

Abstract

A number of possible advantages of industry agglomeration—or spatial clustering—have been identified in the research literature, notably those related to shared costs for infrastructure, the build-up of a skilled labour force, transaction efficiency, and knowledge spillovers leading to firm learning and innovation. We identify two shortcomings of existing research on the clustering phenomenon. First, the abundance of theoretical concepts and explanations stands in sharp contrast with the general lack of work aimed at validating these mechanisms empirically and the contradictory evidence found in recent empirical work in the field. Second, there is still a lack of a unified theoretical framework for analyzing spatial clustering. In an attempt to remedy the latter shortcoming, this paper investigates the nature of the cluster from a knowledge-creation or learning perspective. We argue for the need to establish a specific theory of the cluster where learning occupies centre stage. The basic requirements for such a theory of the cluster are discussed. Two main components of such a theory are identified: it must explain the existence of the cluster on the one hand and its internal organization on the other.

Suggested Citation

  • Anders Malmberg & Peter Maskell, 2002. "The Elusive Concept of Localization Economies: Towards a Knowledge-Based Theory of Spatial Clustering," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 34(3), pages 429-449, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envira:v:34:y:2002:i:3:p:429-449
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