Theoretical, Empirical and Political Perspectives on the Initial Stage of Cluster Evolution
Edited by Dirk Fornahl, Sebastian Henn and Max-Peter Menzel
Chapter 13: Policy Transfer and Institutional Learning: An Evolutionary Perspective on Regional Cluster Policies in Germany
* Matthias Kiese 1 INTRODUCTION Comparatively late, but forcefully, the global cluster hype in economic development policy and practice has taken a firm hold of Germany. Most recently, this is evidenced not only by the federal government’s €600 million Spitzencluster (leading-edge cluster) competition, but also by a growing number of programmes and initiatives launched by state, regional and local governments. Germany is thus jumping on a bandwagon that was set in motion in Anglo-American and Nordic countries in the 1990s and is now rolling full steam over post-socialist, newly industrialising and developing countries (see Sölvell et al. 2003; Ketels et al. 2006). However, the present cluster euphoria is surging far ahead of our current theoretical and empirical knowledge of clusters. Rehfeld (2005) argues that with the surge of cluster policies in the mid-1990s, German academic research has first lost orientation and then track of structural policy. He observes a methodological shift towards case study research, a growing variety of typologies and the quest for identifying generic success factors from best practice cases. At the same time, academic disciplines like regional science or economic geography are still struggling to theorise the alleged benefits of clustering and to prove them empirically. However, they generally shy away from policy analysis and leave it to political scientists who, in turn, do not show a strong inclination towards issues of economic policy at the sub-national scale in general. The emerging phenomenon of cluster policy thus falls into a gap between established disciplines. For instance, economic...
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