Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Applying an Innovation Cluster Framework to a Creative Industry: The Case of Screen-Based Media in Ontario

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Applying an Innovation Cluster Framework to a Creative Industry: The Case of Screen-Based Media in Ontario

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Industry 'clusters' (and analogous concepts referring to geographical concentrations of groups of firms and supporting institutions) represent a key area of interest among innovation and economic development policymakers, and over the past two decades they have come to figure prominently in innovation policies. In most industrialized countries, governments at all levels have implemented programs and policies to strengthen the development and improve the performance of industry clusters. Several factors explain this expansion of cluster approaches. They are an improvement over older sectoral approaches to economic development, but remain sensitive to a jurisdiction's industrial characteristics. Cluster approaches are also attractive to policymakers in local and regional jurisdictions because they address vital local economic interests, providing visibility and saliency in the eyes of local political constituencies. Furthermore, they are attractive to national policymakers because they serve to regionalize national policies, avoiding problems of 'one size fits all' programs. The OECD, a leading advocate of cluster approaches to innovation policy, notes that clusters 'represent a manageable system for governments to implement the NIS [National Innovation System] Framework by complementing horizontal policies with more targeted and customised policies' (OECD 1999, 2002). Despite the many unresolved questions concerning the accurate definition of clusters and the most effective ways to design and execute cluster approaches to innovation policy, cluster-based policies remain very popular (OECD 2008).

Indeed, while cluster policies were originally theorized and popularized in the context of technology- based development, they are now beginning to be applied in non-technology sectors, underscoring their attractiveness to policymakers in a variety of industries. By extending the cluster approach to creative industries, as has the Ontario government, important questions related to innovation, economic growth, and cluster dynamics come to the fore.

Although industry clusters exist in a wide variety of structural configurations, the key characteristics of clusters are the numerous linkages among geographically proximate firms through market- and non market interactions, as well as linkages with geographically proximate supporting firms and institutions, especially suppliers, business services, research institutions, and educational institutions. In principle, therefore, a cluster approach for creative industries is viable and is consistent with the large scholarly and practitioner literature that has emerged and investigates clusters in many locations and industries.

The purpose of this article is to examine more closely the suitability of a cluster approach to creative industries. In so doing, we relate the results of applying a formal industry cluster benchmarking framework to a creative industry, the Ontario screen-based media industry (which we here define as the film and television production, postproduction, and interactive digital media [IDM] sectors). The cluster benchmarking framework was developed in association with Canada's National Research Council to monitor industry clusters, and has now been applied to ten technology- based clusters in Canada. In this paper we briefly describe the cluster framework and the principal characteristics of Ontario's screen-based media cluster, highlighting how they differ from technology-based clusters. This discussion provides a background for an analysis of the five challenges of approaching a creative industry in terms of an innovation cluster. These challenges are: 1) accurately understanding the nature of innovation processes in cultural industries and assessing the actual competitive significance of pervasive product innovation in these industries; 2) facilitating localized aesthetic spillovers into other cultural industries and the linkages, externalities and spillovers that are believed to be of strategic significance, especially linkages between IT suppliers and media firms, between media firms and R&D institutions, and between media firms and the investment community; 3) factoring in the cluster's numerous trans-local external linkages; 4) devising innovation policy measures for labor, entrepreneurs, and small firms in media industries; 5) identifying cluster-specific implications of actual or potential policy measures for innovation in an industry in which policy influences are widespread. …

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