Facilitating Different Types of Clusters

Article excerpt

This paper focuses on cluster facilitators and their efforts in facilitating the development of clusters. At present, the vast majority of literature presents a uniform image of cluster facilitators despite the fact that different types of clusters influence their role and purpose. Thus, the aim of this paper is to explore how the roles and purposes of cluster facilitators change when facilitating various cluster types, and the impact of those changes on the cluster facilitation performed. The findings show that cluster facilitators in Marshallian/Italian industrial district type of clusters play the role of match makers and organisers; in the Hub-and-spoke district type of clusters, the cluster facilitators perform the roles of developer and organiser; cluster facilitators in the Satellite industrial platform type of clusters are promoters and organisers; and in the State-anchored industrial district type of clusters, the cluster facilitators fulfil the roles of integrator and organiser. This conclusion is based on a multiple case study as well as on a selection of literature on clusters and cluster facilitation.

Key words: cluster facilitator, cluster, cluster type, case study


1. Introduction

Over recent decades, clusters have emerged as a vital and often-used concept to describe and explain topics such as the competitiveness of firms, regional development, and the geography of innovation (Cruz & Teixeira, 2010). Clusters have been studied using several theoretical perspectives, among others, a strategy and competitiveness perspective (Enright, 1998; Porter, 1990, 2000), an institutional perspective (Cooke et al., 1997; Lundvall, 1992) and a knowledge and learning perspective (Bathelt et al., 2004; Malmberg & Maskell, 2006), which are embedded in different research disciplines, for example business studies, economic geography, and economics (Cruz & Teixeira, 2010). These and other theoretical perspectives illustrate that the research on clusters is essentially interdisciplinary. Spun out of this interdisciplinarity comes an emerging perspective focusing on cluster governance and cluster facilitation that draws on policy studies in addition to management and facilitation studies (Borras & Tsagdis, 2008; Ingstrup, 2010; Ingstrup & Damgaard, 2012; Jungwirth et al., 2011; Nauwelaers, 2001). The central objective in this emerging theoretical perspective is the investigation of governance structures within and around clusters, including the role and purpose of cluster facilitators in the process of cluster development.

Cluster facilitators can take the form of individuals, firms and private consultants, local associations and knowledge institutions, and public authorities and government agencies that assist in the development of clusters through trust building, in order to promote cooperation and sharing of activities and resources among the participating actors (Ingstrup & Damgaard, 2012). An extensive literature review showed that the vast majority of reporting on cluster facilitators presents a uniform image of this actor, see for example Christensen and Stoerring (2012), Coletti (2010), Jungwirth et al. (2011), and Ketels (2003), and thereby comes short of describing and analysing how the roles and purposes of cluster facilitators change in relation to the cluster type being facilitated and how the changing roles and purposes affect the facilitation executed. This is problematic, as it is well known in cluster research that different types of clusters exist with specific attributes; both strengths and weaknesses (Barkley & Henry, 1997; Markusen, 1996), and that these attributes have a noticeable effect on the role and purpose of cluster facilitators. This gap of knowledge calls for further examination of cluster facilitators, because of the significant value of this actor's impact in developing clusters of excellence i.e. clusters with a high degree of productivity, growth, and innovativeness (Europa InterCluster, 2010; zu Köcker & Rosted, 2010). …