Theoretical, Empirical and Political Perspectives on the Initial Stage of Cluster Evolution
Edited by Dirk Fornahl, Sebastian Henn and Max-Peter Menzel
Chapter 1: Emerging Clusters: A Conceptual Overview
Max-Peter Menzel, Sebastian Henn and Dirk Fornahl Economic activity is unevenly distributed in space. This fact has often been associated with spatial concentrations of firms in related fields commonly termed as ‘clusters’ (Malmberg and Maskell 2002). As such clusters are considered centers of economic activity and important elements in economic development in general and in regional development in particular (Porter 1998) it is not surprising that there have been many efforts to better understand in detail the benefits of regional clustering and the processes occurring in functioning clusters (Martin and Sunley 2003). While classical explanations refer to Marshall’s (1917) ideas of agglomeration externalities like a common regional labor pool, specialized suppliers, a shared infrastructure and knowledge spillovers (see also Gordon and McCann 2000), some additional factors beneficial for geographically concentrated firms have been identified in the past two decades (Armington and Acs 2002). Besides others they include the access to networks (OwenSmith and Powell 2004), to a local science base (Zucker et al. 1998) and/ or to local knowledge in general (Malmberg and Maskell 2006), but also ‘buzz’ in the sense of a diffuse and pervasive sharing of information (Bathelt et al. 2004), the co-ordination of complex tasks (Torre and Rallet 2005), local competition (Porter 1998), supportive institutions (Kenney and von Burg 1999) and the characteristics of regional cultures (Saxenian 1994). Though the strong research focus on the functionality of clusters has without doubt resulted in a profound knowledge about the processes occurring within regional clusters, it has largely involved...
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