Handbooks of Research on Clusters series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson
Chapter 7: Cluster Life-cycles: An Emerging Synthesis
Edward M. Bergman 1 Introduction Despite early and repeated predictions of a short half-life that aﬄicts merely fashionable ideas, regional cluster concepts continue to thrive in diverse policy theatres and beneﬁt from the intense scrutiny of many disciplines, having already entered the provisional realm of numerous theoretical frameworks. Cluster concepts obtain their greatest traction in those ﬁelds concerned with aggregates of ﬁrms and near-market agents that self-assemble in progressively larger constellations and networks comprising whole economies, whether at regional, national or supranational levels. Clusters also oﬀer an analytically appealing intermediate level of economic ‘granularity’ that accords well with parallel theoretical developments in the new economic geography, endogenous growth theory, knowledge economy, innovation systems, etc. While economic clusters still remain theoretically underdeveloped, they enjoy valuable face-validity that continues to propel policy interest, generate support and attract intellectual resources. Several other chapters of this volume develop various themes along these lines. This chapter will focus attention on available concepts that permit better understanding of how clustered aggregations of dynamic ﬁrms come to dominate certain technologies and markets as powerful innovation and growth mechanisms, and why the same dominant aggregations may later morph successfully into novel combinations or decline into oblivion, becoming – in Wilbur Thompson’s unforgettably term – ‘industrial hospices’. While the policy interest in this topic is self-evident, theoretical interests might beneﬁt from a more complete accounting of ‘why’ clusters may, at diﬀerent life-cycle stages, be dynamically innovative, highly productive, highly concentrated, yet in the end exhibit fatal...
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