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ISBN Number: 9789264031821
Competitive Regional Clusters: National Policy Approaches
Many nations and regions are struggling to maintain their competitive edge in the context of globalisation. The regional specialisations built up over decades are transforming rapidly. Many regions that were historically production centres in a given sector are losing out to lower-cost locations and reorienting to higher value-added niches. Yet even some of these upstream activities are being off-shored. How durable are the competitive strengths on which regional economies are based?
National programmes to promote cluster-based approaches -- linking firms, people and knowledge at a regional level -- are being used to meet the challenge. Evolutions in regional policy, science and technology policy and industrial/enterprise policy are converging on the objective of supporting clusters at the regional level. Nevertheless, policy makers face a series of difficult choices given limited resources. For example, they may focus on the leading regions and sectors that drive national economic growth and technological breakthroughs or the lagging regions that need to reorient their economies to preserve jobs and diversify. This report analyses the objectives, targeting, instruments and inter-governmental role sharing used by 26 programmes in 14 OECD countries.
At both the national and regional level, the key concepts that underlie the cluster approach continue to be at the centre of policy formulation. In some cases, the policy interventions are explicitly called cluster policies. In many others, the main features of the cluster concept are present but the term cluster is not used. These programmes have the objective of reinforcing regional specialisation by supporting linked industries in a geographical location and by emphasising stronger interactions among different public and private actors. To better understand why there is renewed interest in clusters, this chapter reviews:
Policies that support regional specialisation and clusters are at the intersection of several different policy families, which helps explain the increased policy interest. These policy families include: regional policy, science and technology (S&T) or innovation policy and industrial/enterprise policy. The goals, programmes and instruments used in these policy areas may serve to support regional specialisation by favouring greater linkages among firms and research institutions. The orientation of the policy family behind the cluster policy serves to frame the objectives, targets and scope of the policy (see Table 2.1). In some cases, the policy may be clearly flowing from only one policy source within the country, but in most cases it is integral to one policy strand but clearly related to others.
The economic rationale for government intervention underlies the different choices regarding programme targets. Those targets may be places, sectors or specific actors or groups of actors (see Figure 3.1). They could also be a combination of these different target categories. The targets then need to be clearly identified to ensure that the resources available for the programme are adequate and that goals are achievable. The choice of selection mechanisms is a key first step and needs to be consistent with the objectives. This chapter will discuss the following themes:
The instruments to implement policies and programmes supporting regional specialisation and clusters seek to capitalise on the theoretical benefits described in Chapter 1. This chapter discusses:
The level of government best suited to initiate, implement or fund a policy depends on the governance frameworks as well as the nature of the policy. In the case of regional specialisation and clusters, there are economic rationale for all levels of government (local, regional, national and in some cases supra-national) to support such policies. Furthermore, different levels of government have available different sets of competencies and tools and in turn reap different degrees of benefit.
There is a long list of challenges to evaluating the effectiveness of policies to promote clusters and regional specialisation. There is a lack of agreement on how to define a cluster. The public financial resources allocated to most programmes are often modest, especially relative to the ambitious goals. Classic problems of causality in evaluation are exacerbated in the context of clusters and their ultimate impact on regional development. Nevertheless, based on some programme evaluations and a review of these OECD programmes there are definitely lessons to be learned. This chapter focuses on:
Part II of this publication is a series of case studies for 14 countries that cover 26 programmes or policy approaches that have a cluster-based focus. A summary of these programmes is found in the Table below.
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