Emerging Clusters
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Emerging Clusters

Theoretical, Empirical and Political Perspectives on the Initial Stage of Cluster Evolution

Edited by Dirk Fornahl, Sebastian Henn and Max-Peter Menzel

This book rigorously explores the critical, initial stage of cluster emergence in which the seeds for further growth are sown. Whether economic growth actually occurs, however, ultimately depends on various regional conditions and the processes in place.
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Chapter 12: Neither Planned Nor by Chance: How Knowledge-Intensive Clusters Emerge

Rolf Sternberg


Rolf Sternberg 1 INTRODUCTION1 ‘Silicon Valley is probably the only place on earth not trying to copy Silicon Valley’ (Robert Metcalfe 1998, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com). Many policymakers and even some academic scholars try to make the public believe that the success of Silicon Valley can be replicated if certain policy ingredients and instruments are given. According to this chapter such a ‘recipe’ (Bresnahan and Gambardella 2004b) perspective is based on a serious (and costly) misinterpretation of the reasons for the genesis and later growth not only of Silicon Valley, but of other knowledge-intensive regional clusters in the US and elsewhere, too. It seems necessary to interpret the high-tech cluster phenomenon in the light of these reasons specific to the local and national conditions given. Too many policymakers who try to create regional–sectoral clusters are blinded by the recent performance of well-known international clusters like the ‘Silicon Valley’ in California. They ignore the concrete and very location-specific processes and framework conditions in these regions before they reached their take-off phase that took place several decades ago. The determinants relevant during the emergence of a cluster may differ significantly from the determinants that influence the recent growth of these regions (Sternberg 1998; Bresnahan and Gambardella 2004b). Policymakers who want to create clusters now have much more to learn from the origins of current clusters than from its actual performance. Given the fact that most of the cluster initiatives in modern economies are based upon (and have to...

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