Edited by Philip Cooke, Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma, Ron Martin, Dafna Schwartz and Franz Tödtling
Chapter 22: Cluster Evolution
Arne Isaksen INTRODUCTION Much of the literature of clusters focus on the question, ‘Why do industries cluster?’ A general answer is that industries cluster to gain competitive advantage from external economies and increasing returns for firms (Asheim et al., 2006). Firms can more easily benefit from knowledge spillovers, skilled labour, specialized inputs, adapted local infrastructure and so on if located in close proximity to similar firms, service industries, universities and research and development (R&D) institutes. This chapter poses a somewhat different question: ‘How do clusters emerge, grow, decline and eventually renew themselves?’ This question has been relatively neglected in cluster studies until recently, compared with the question of how cluster firms gain competitive strength (Bergman, 2008; Lorenzen, 2005). This second question requires an evolutionary approach which typically distinguishes between different life-cycle stages of clusters. Clusters are seen to follow a general model that resembles industry, technology or product cycles, and the model is abstracted from empirical observations (Bergman, 2008). We should however stress that individual clusters do not follow a predetermined life cycle as all clusters have some unique characteristics that influence their development. In the words of Belussi and Sedita (2009), cluster processes follow differentiated path-dependencies (on ‘path-interdependence’, see Martin’s Chapter 15 in this Handbook). To organize the discussion, this chapter nevertheless employs a stylized cluster life cycle consisting of four phases: (1) emergence; (2) growth; (3) maturity; (4) decline and possibly renewal (see for example Feldman and Francis, 2006). The fourth phase points to the...
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