Handbooks of Research on Clusters series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson
Chapter 14: Diversity and the Case Against Specialized Clusters
Pierre Desrochers, Frédéric Sautet and Gert-Jan Hospers1 1 Introduction The geographical concentration of related manufacturing and service ﬁrms is as old as economic development,2 but it has drawn renewed attention in the last two decades in the wake of the spectacular growth of regional economies such as Silicon Valley (South San Francisco Bay), Route 128 (greater Boston area) and the ‘discovery’ of numerous manufacturing districts in locations ranging from Denmark and Italy to Thailand and Japan. While contemporary policy prescriptions that built on geographically localized, related and interdependent ﬁrms can be traced back to the ‘growth poles’ and ‘growth centres’ strategy of the 1950s and 1960s (Chapman, 2005), the most appealing to policy makers in recent times has been the ‘cluster’ strategy put forward by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter in his 1990 best-seller, The Competitive Advantage of Nations (Porter, 1990). In short, this approach suggests that the geographical concentration of ﬁrms working within a particular ﬁeld raises their productivity, innovativeness, competitiveness, proﬁtability and job creation capacity, and therefore of their immediate and wider geographical areas. This prescription was further repeated, reﬁned and sometimes made more confusing in the following years (Porter, 1998; 2000a; 2000b). Although the Harvard scholar did not invent or even do the most original work on regional economic development, his reputation and well-established status as one of the world’s foremost business strategy theorists put him in a unique position to popularize his growth prescription to policy makers worldwide. Indeed, as one...
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