Looking for the Core of a Knowledge-based Sea Cluster: A Social Network Analysis in a Maritime Region
For more than two decades cluster policies have emerged as a central focus for decision-makers trying to instigate territorial development. The benefits, especially in terms of collective learning, knowledge sharing and other types of agglomeration economies and spill-over effects, are well stressed in the regional science literature. Today the relevance of maritime activities and marine resources to economic development is acknowledged. For several European countries, the Atlantic Ocean is part of their common history, identity and potential for developing advanced economic niches of excellence. There is no surprise that several regions are trying to implement their development strategies based on a broad Sea Cluster notion that encompasses a diversity of economic activities such as fisheries and aquaculture, coastal tourism, marine transports and activities based on marine sciences and maritime technologies. Based on the results of a trans-regional evaluation performed for the Atlantic Area under project KIMERAA, this paper evaluates the consolidation of the Sea Cluster in the Algarve, a Portuguese region internationally known by its coastal tourism. The region has also been experiencing a growing capacity in economic activities linked to marine sciences. This regional cluster did not emerge spontaneously and there are several initiatives to promote it. Interviews to regional actors showed light on two important issues. i) Which organization should be the main mediator to bridge science to market? ii) Who is the actor that is in a better position to assume a pivotal role in the formal consolidation of the cluster? Using social network analysis the main knowledge transfer mediator and the central actors are identified. Their roles and specific policy implications are underlined.
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