Cluster quo vadis? The future of the cluster concept
Although other regional- and sector-oriented promotional approaches exist alongside cluster promotion, from today's perspective the popularity of the cluster approach appears undiminished. At the global scale, no funding approach is as much discussed and implemented as the cluster concept. It must therefore be assumed that cluster support will still be a central innovation policy approach in the coming years. This view is strengthened by the fact that at present no successor for cluster promotion is apparent in the recent scientific theoretical discussion. Although improvements in the con-ceptual clarity and in the cluster policy approaches are being discussed, a new paradigm at a comparable level (as for instance the concept of innovation systems or also network funding before the diffusion of the cluster approach) is not recognizable. Cluster funding will however in future have to be more specific (and selective) than previously and have to network with other funding levels and funding approaches (e.g. European excellence clusters; promotion of excellence in universities in clusters; collaborative research and network promotion; new (heterogeneous) cooperation models). All empirical evidence shows that successfully operating clusters are characterized by a great diversity of actors and activities. These qualify the cluster as a platform to develop new cooperation forms and partnerships, as well as for further education and training measures, by learning from the experiences gathered in the cluster promotion programmes and building on the interactions in clusters. In this sense, new cooperation forms at the micro level, i.e. between single partners, and at the meso level in regional partnerships are not a substitute, but rather a supplement and extension of cluster promotion.
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