New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Philip Cooke, Mario Davide Parrilli and José Luis Curbelo
Chapter 17: A Participatory Methodology for Evaluating the Cluster Policy of the Basque Country
Cristina Aragón, Maria José Aranguren, Cristina Iturrioz and James R. Wilson I. INTRODUCTION Policies that aim to support clusters of firms are now well-established tools of regional policy agencies. Since the 1980s, and rooted in research with a much longer pedigree, a large literature has emerged around clusters, motivated by the apparent success of Marshallian-type industrial districts in Italy (Becattini, 1978; 1991; Becattini et al., 2003; Piore and Sabel, 1984; Pyke et al., 1990) alongside a range of other experiences (Christerson and Lever-Tracy, 1997; Saxenian, 1994; Schmitz and Musyck, 1994). Porter’s (1990; 1998a; 2004) promotion of industrial clusters in the context of the competitiveness of particular locations has been especially influential among regional policy-makers, establishing clusters as a key focus for regional economic development. Among the growing obsession with clusters, however, there has been some scepticism (Martin and Sunley, 2003; Sugden et al., 2006) around the way in which the concept has frequently been seen as a policy panacea. Indeed, given their prominent and widespread position on regional policy agendas, the evaluation of cluster policies is a critical yet under-examined issue. The Basque Country Autonomous Community (CAPV) in Spain was one of the pioneers of regional cluster policy, applying Porter’s framework from the early 1990s (Aranguren et al., 2006). The cluster policy today supports 11 priority clusters, nine of which have been supported since the 1990s, and five emerging ‘pre-clusters’. In recent years various evaluations have been made of different aspects of the policy, but it has proved challenging...
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