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What qualifies as a cluster theory?

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  • Peter Maskell
  • Leïla Kebir

Abstract

This paper investigates the theoretical backgrounds of the “cluster” and proposes a framework aiming at drawing the contour of cluster theory. The profundity of the notion of ‘clusters’ is arguably conditional on the coherence of three fundamental issues associated with the concept: 1) the economic and social benefits that may accrue to firms when clustering or co-locating (the existence argument); 2) the diseconomies encountered when clustering exceeds certain geographical and sectoral thresholds (the extension argument); and, finally, 3) the possible erosion of economies and onset of diseconomies over the lifecycle of the cluster (the exhaustion argument). Each of these three issues is examined in terms of three relevant major theoretical frameworks that can be brought to bear on the cluster concept. The paper considers approaches based on the idea of externalities (illustrated by the Marshall's work on ‘Industrial district’); on competitiveness issue (illustrated by Michael Porter’s theory of cluster growth); on a territorial perspective (illustrated by the GREMI approach). The paper acknowledges the general shift in explanatory emphasis from considerations of static cost efficiency towards more dynamic interpretations that highlight the creation and use of knowledge as their pivotal theoretical element. By placing these changes within a common conceptual framework the paper shows how different theoretical solutions provide distinct points of departure for subsequent policy recommendations. Three distinctive groups of solutions are identified focusing respectively on local spillovers, on competitiveness and on the region and its development. The paper concludes by identifying areas of particular ambiguity where further theoretical work is most urgently needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Maskell & Leïla Kebir, 2005. "What qualifies as a cluster theory?," DRUID Working Papers 05-09, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:05-09
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Steiner, Bodo & Ali, Jolene, 2009. "Regional food clusters and government support for clustering: Evidence for a ‘dynamic food innovation cluster’ in Alberta, Canada?," MPRA Paper 26251, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Pedro Valadas Monteiro & Teresa de Noronha & Paulo Neto, 2011. "The Importance of Clusters for Sustainable Innovation Processes: The Context of Small and Medium Sized Regions," CEFAGE-UE Working Papers 2011_24, University of Evora, CEFAGE-UE (Portugal).
    3. Arthur Huang & David Levinson, 2011. "Why Retailers Cluster: An Agent Model of Location Choice on Supply Chains," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 38(1), pages 82-94, February.
    4. Sara C. Santos Cruz & Aurora A.C. Teixeira, 2007. "A new look into the evolution of clusters literature. A bibliometric exercise," FEP Working Papers 257, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    5. Götz Marta & Jankowska Barbara & Główka Cezary, 2014. "How to Investigate Polish Clusters’ Attractiveness for Inward FDI? Addressing Ambiguity Problem," International Journal of Management and Economics, De Gruyter Open, vol. 43(1), pages 74-93, September.
    6. Alex Burfitt & Stewart Macneill, 2008. "The Challenges of Pursuing Cluster Policy in the Congested State," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 492-505, June.
    7. Fiorenza Belussi & Silvia R. Sedita, 2012. "Industrial Districts as Open Learning Systems: Combining Emergent and Deliberate Knowledge Structures," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(2), pages 165-184, April.
    8. Wixted, Brian, 2006. "Cluster Complexes: A Framework for Understanding the Internationalisation of Innovation Systems," MPRA Paper 846, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Kiatkajon CHAIRAT & Sumalee SANTIPOLVUT & Supachart SUKHAROMANA, 2015. "Provincial Clustering In The South Of Thailand: Conceptual And Empirical," Regional Science Inquiry, Hellenic Association of Regional Scientists, vol. 0(1), pages 55-67, June.
    10. Anastasiia Konstantynova & James R. Wilson, 2014. "Comparing Cluster Policies: An Analytical Framework," Working Papers 2014R01, Orkestra - Basque Institute of Competitiveness.
    11. Cristina Santos & Alexandre Almeida & Aurora A.C. Teixeira, 2008. "Searching for clusters in tourism. A quantitative methodological proposal," FEP Working Papers 293, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    12. Edward M. Bergman, 2007. "Cluster Life-Cycles: An Emerging Synthesis," SRE-Disc sre-disc-2007_04, Institute for Multilevel Governance and Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    13. Sara Cruz & Aurora Teixeira, 2010. "The Evolution of the Cluster Literature: Shedding Light on the Regional Studies-Regional Science Debate," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(9), pages 1263-1288.
    14. M. Nicotra & M. Romano & M. Giudice, 2014. "The Evolution Dynamic of a Cluster Knowledge Network: The Role of Firms’ Absorptive Capacity," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 5(2), pages 240-264, June.
    15. Andrea GANZAROLI & Gianluca FISCATO & Luciano PILOTTI, 2006. "Does business succession enhance firms’ innovation capacity? Results from an exploratory analysis in Italian SMEs," Departmental Working Papers 2006-29, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    16. Joana Almodovar & Aurora A.C. Teixeira, 2009. "Conceptualizing clusters through the lens of networks: a critical synthesis," FEP Working Papers 328, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    17. María Eugenia Morales Rubiano & Sonia Esperanza Sanabria Aguirre, 2010. "Acumulación de Conocimiento, Innovación y Competitividad en Aglomeraciones Empresariales," REVISTA FACULTAD DE CIENCIAS ECONÓMICAS, UNIVERSIDAD MILITAR NUEVA GRANADA, December.
    18. Mario A. Maggioni & T. Erika Uberti & Francesca Gambarotto, 2009. "Mapping the Evolution of "Clusters": A Meta-analysis," Working Papers 2009.74, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    19. Koschatzky, Knut & Lo, Vivien, 2007. "Methodological framework for cluster analyses," Working Papers "Firms and Region" R1/2007, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    20. Svetlana Rastvortseva & Natalya Cherepovskaya, 2013. "Identification and assessment of regional clusters," Economy of region, Centre for Economic Security, Institute of Economics of Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1(4), pages 123-133.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cluster; cluster theory; industrial district; innovative milieu; regional policy;

    JEL classification:

    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General
    • R58 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Regional Development Planning and Policy

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