Cluster policies have been recently called into question in the aftermath of several empirical evidences. Disentangling how market and network failures arguments play together in cluster policy design, we look for more robust micro foundations of network structuring in clusters. Our aim is to show that, in spite of this growing skepticism, new opportunities for cluster policy exist. They require moving their focus from the “connecting people” one best way that gets through the whole of cluster policy guidelines, to more surgical incentives for R & D collaborations, which favor suited structural properties of local knowledge networks along the life cycle of clusters.
This chapter focuses on exploring the critical role played by the structural properties of knowledge networks in shaping the ability of regions to renew themselves over time and to be resilient. The chapter is founded on the perspective that regional systems of innovation can be conceived primarily as knowledge networks whereby network structures are comprised of nodes (organizations) and ties (voluntary knowledge flows). Looking at how different nodes connect to each other helps reveal the structural properties of the system and the topological properties of the networks that emerge from the micro behaviours of actors embedded in regional systems. The chapter shows how these topological network properties, namely their connectivity, hierarchy and assortativity, provide critical insights into why certain regions succeed in renewing and reorganizing their resources, whilst others fail.