Handbook of Research on Cluster Theory

Handbook of Research on Cluster Theory

Handbooks of Research on Clusters series

Edited by Charlie Karlsson

Clusters have increasingly dominated local and regional development policies in recent decades and the growing intellectual and political interest for clusters and clustering is the prime motivation for this Handbook. Charlie Karlsson unites leading experts to present a thorough overview of economic cluster research.

Chapter 6: Clusters Formation from the ‘Bottom-Up’: A Process Perspective

Andrew Atherton and Andrew Johnston

Subjects: economics and finance, regional economics, urban and regional studies, clusters, regional economics


Andrew Atherton and Andrew Johnston 1 From ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’ considerations of clusters formation Clusters and related forms of inter-firm collaboration and networking have been a particular focus of regional, and national, policy and economic strategy over the last few decades. The identification of ‘industrial districts’ of innovative firms generating local wealth creation and high levels of exports in Northern Italy offered the possibility that regional prosperity was underpinned by high levels of flexible specialization (Beccatini, 1990; Brusco, 1982; Lazerson, 1995; Nadvi & Schmitz, 1994; Pyke et al., 1990). Specific cases of local economies driven by the exploitation of knowledge and invention in technology-driven firms operating within localized networks, and in particular ‘success stories’ such as Silicon Valley, Highway 128 and Cambridge, provided examples of the potential of clusters to contribute to economic growth and development (Castells, 1996; Cooke & Morgan, 1998; Porter, 1998; Saxenian, 1994; Segal Quince Wicksteed, 2000; Storper & Scott, 1995). Support for the notion of clusters as a means of developing economic competitiveness and growth has come from academic studies and parts of the research community (e.g. Porter, 1990, 1998; Rosenfeld, 1995). As noted by Cooke and Morgan (1998, p. 185), academic support for the notion of clusters provided a compelling rationale for the adoption and development of clusters strategies in many regions, based particularly on the work of Porter (1990). The promise of clusters as an economic and regional development strategy has not, however, translated into successful practice and policy in many nations and...

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