The Economic Benefits of Clusters and Regional Support Initiatives within the East of England


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The economic benefits of clustering and regional support initiatives to encourage and nurture the development of high-tech and knowledge-based clusters within the East of England

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The Economic Benefits of Clusters and Regional Support Initiatives within the East of England

  1. 1. Cluster Development The Economic Benefits of Clusters and Regional Support Initiatives within the East of England by Peter Louis September 2003 © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  2. 2. 1. Introduction Inspired by the writings of Porter (1990, 1998) and Krugman (1991), there has been an increasing appreciation of the role that geography plays in the location of industry, and the benefits and economies that location provides to firms, regions and nations. In the 1998 White Paper Our Competitive Future – Building the Knowledge Driven Economy, the British government outlined its strategy “to reverse a century of relative economic decline by raising the sustainable rate of growth” (Department of Trade and Industry 1998, p. 6). The government recognised that the global economy had changed the fundamentals of competition: capital mobility allowed firms to produce in low-cost countries; technology transfers increasingly occurred between the developed and developing parts of the world; and goods made in developing countries were being increasingly shipped to developed ones. Further, the government acknowledged that in the global economy, the best ways in which the UK could achieve competitive advantage were through developing UK competencies1 (Prahalad and Hamel 1990) in knowledge, skills and creativity that were key to Building the Knowledge Driven Economy. 1.1 Cluster Economic Development In The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Porter (1990, p. 71) indicated that four broad attributes “shape the environment in which local firms compete that promote or impeded the creation of competitive advantage” (Porter 1990): 1. Factor conditions – the quantity and quality of productive factors required during production, such as skilled labour, technology or infrastructure 2. Demand conditions – the nature of demand in the domestic market for the product or service 1 Firms realise their core competences in core products that form the basis of finished items. (Prahalad and Hamel 1990) © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  3. 3. 3. Related or supporting industries – the presence or absence of internationally competitive supplier or related industries in the domestic economy 4. Firm strategy, structure and rivalry – the domestic conditions that dictate how companies are created, organised and managed, and the competitive forces that determine industry competition These attributes form a nation’s diamond and Porter has contended that nations are most likely to succeed in industries or industry segments where the diamond is the most favourable. To complete the framework, Porter added the role of chance (such as acts of pure invention and war), how it creates discontinuities and shifts the competitive position, and the role of government (for example, national, regional and local), how it influences and is influenced by the various attributes of the diamond (see figure 1). Source: Porter, M. E. (1990). The Competitive Advantage of Nations. London: Macmillan Press Ltd., pp. 72 & 127 Figure 1. Diamond of national advantage Porter (1990, p. 148) stated that the “systemic nature of the ‘diamond’ promotes the clustering of a nation’s competitive industries,” and Porter identified two types of clusters: • Vertical clusters – where firms are linked through buyer-supplier relationships © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  4. 4. • Horizontal clusters – in which firms have, for example, common customers, technology or channels 1.2 Nurturing Cluster Development Our Competitive Future (Department of Trade and Industry 1998, p. 40) commented that, “Sectorial partnerships, including supply chain initiatives, networking and clusters play a critical role [emphasis mine] in sharing knowledge and upgrading skills among complementary businesses.” The government tasked the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) with taking forward many of the proposals outlined in the White Paper: “raising regional skills, encouraging links between business and higher and further education, working with Business Links to develop regional centres of expertise, encouraging business collaboration and facilitating the development of clusters” (Department of Trade and Industry 1998, p. 42) Initially, the government identified clusters of critical importance around Cambridge, Oxford and Dundee in which the UK had European leadership in biotechnology and genome research. Figure 2 illustrates the clusters (in stars) of firms, organisations and individuals that form communities in Bedfordshire and along the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  5. 5. Source: Oxford-Cambridge Arc ( Figure 2. Clusters in Bedfordshire and along the Oxford-Cambridge Arc In Planning for Clusters (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2000), the government analysed six clusters. They identified that location and spatial factors were critical to early cluster development whilst economic and vertical factors (for example, the operation of a supply chain) were critical to cluster consolidation. However, “social and cultural factors (labour mobility, sharing of information etc [sic])” were said to “form the glue which makes the cluster operational” (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2000, p. 31). Lorenzen (1999) pointed out, for a region to achieve knowledge, there needed to be localised learning systems, such as systems of firms within high-tech industries, with multiple extra-regional linkages to sources of codified (explicit) knowledge. However, other systems, notably small and medium sized firms (SMEs), could learn by leveraging linkages to obtain local (tacit) knowledge. Lorenzen considers the following elements important in promoting the endogenous creation of knowledge: © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  6. 6. • Education and training - the flexibility of the labour force but more importantly how it increases the stock of local knowledge (human capital) and improves regional core competencies • Promoting experimentation and innovation within single firms – firms are risk averse, consequently, grants can encourage the use of experimental technology or access to finance can encourage spinouts. Similarly, incubator services can stimulate spinout and start-up activity. 2. Characteristics of a Cluster In the view of Doeringer and Terkla (1995, p. 225), clusters are “geographical concentrations of industries that gain performance advantages through co-location.” Porter (1998, p. 88) agreed that co-location “creates the potential for economic value”; however, Porter (1998, p. 88) qualified his assertion by adding that, “it [co- location] does not necessarily ensure its realization.” Moreover, Porter referred to clusters as geographical concentrations of “interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field.” Porter elaborated that: Clusters encompass an array of linked industries and other entities important to competition. They include, for instance, suppliers of specialized inputs such as components, machinery, and services, and providers of specialized infrastructure. Clusters also often extend downstream to channels and customers and laterally to manufacturers of complementary products and to companies in industries related by skills, technologies, or common inputs. Finally, many clusters include governmental and other institutions-such as universities, standards-setting agencies, think tanks, vocational training providers, and trade associations – that provide specialized training, education, information, research, and technical support. (Porter 1998, p. 78) Jacobs and De Man (1996, p. 425) noted, “There is not one correct definition of the cluster concept.” Rather, they concluded that there were a set of dimensions to which tailor-made policies could be developed. The dimensions identified were: • Geographical – spatial clustering of economic activity © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  7. 7. • Horizontal – relationships between industry sectors at similar stages in the production process • Vertical – relationships between industry sectors at different stages along the production process • Lateral – relationships where different sectors share certain capabilities that lead to performance gains in the form of economies of scope2 • Technological – around a basic technology • Focal – a cluster of firms around a central actor (such as a firm, a research centre or an educational institution) • Quality of the network – the way in which firms cooperate and the relative benefits that they receive will determine whether the network will be sustainable and stimulating Rosenfeld (1997, p. [4]) contended that the term cluster needed to be clearly defined if it was to become a “useful subject of analysis and policy.” Rosenfeld (1997, p. [4]) described a cluster as “a geographically bounded concentration of interdependent businesses with active channels for business transactions, dialogue, and communications, and that collectively shares common opportunities and threats." Among these various definitions or dimensions of a cluster are clear set of characteristics that help to distinguish a cluster from other forms of economic activity. Firstly, spatial proximity is seen as an important dimension of a cluster (Doeringer and Terkla 1995; Jacobs and De Man 1996; Porter 1990, 1998; Rosenfeld 1997). There is, nevertheless, no general agreement as to what qualifies as being within the spatial proximity of a cluster. Nonetheless, I will accept the position that, “Often a regional cluster covers a local labour market area or travel-to-work area (European Commission 2002, p. 13).” Secondly, clusters are characterised by the active relationships that illustrate the interdependencies among firms. These relationships can occur within a sector, across sectors or across industries and they suggest the productive output of the cluster (Jacobs and De Man 1996; Porter 1990, 1998; Rosenfeld 1997). 2 Long-run reduction in average costs as the range of activities increases. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  8. 8. Lastly, Jacobs and De Man (1996), Porter (1990, 1998), and Rosenfeld (1997) have described how flows of information, knowledge, capital, skills, new technology and innovations are an essential feature of a cluster, where these flows occur both within the cluster, and to and from it. 3. The Economic Benefits of Clusters 3.1 Regions of Competitiveness Porter (1998) has indicated that firms within a cluster are immersed within a competitive business environment that provides three advantages. Firstly, firms “operate more productively” (Porter 1998, p. 81). Firms can readily obtain access to inputs such as suppliers, information, technology and higher education institutions. Costs related to searching for and hiring talented employees are reduced, as talent is made available within the cluster. Often, firms can source products and services from inside the cluster and thus forgo the (greater) cost of having to develop or produce the product or service. Being within a cluster provides members with preferred access to “extensive market, technical, and competitive information” (Porter 1998, p. 81) that accumulates inside a cluster. Cluster members also benefit from being associated with the cluster through efforts such as joint marketing, trade fairs, bulk purchasing and brand recognition (Porter 1998). Secondly, clusters are incubators of innovation. For example, through having a close relationship with sophisticated buyers within a cluster, suppliers are more tuned to their specific needs and market trends and are able to bring products to the market more rapidly than isolated competitors. Clusters often provide the ability and the agility for members to implement innovations more rapidly. The sheer competitive pressures between peers that are exerted reinforce these advantages for innovation (Porter 1998). Thirdly, clusters encourage new business formation. Firms develop to take advantage of the concentrated customer base. Gaps in the market lead to spinouts where product and service innovations can be developed. These products and services can be developed at considerably reduced cost and risk through the leveraging of established relationships (Porter 1998). © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  9. 9. 3.2 Regions of Co-operation As mentioned, Porter (1998) has asserted that competition is the dominant behaviour among firms within a cluster and that, through this competitive behaviour, a nation gains competitive advantage in the industries in which its clusters compete. Doeringer and Terkla (1995), and Rosenfeld (1997) have identified collaboration as key means of strengthening and developing a cluster. Rosenfeld observed that firms within a cluster form networks that have common business goals. These networks are based on co-operation, which allows them to benefit from specialised services at lower cost and engage in complex activities they would not otherwise perform. Doeringer and Terkla have pointed out that efficiencies may be achieved through horizontal competition. However, “Facilitating cooperative relationships and promoting vertical collaborations that lead to production channel clustering among suppliers and customers appear to be more constructive directions for development policy” (Doeringer and Terkla p. 235). Saxenian (1994, p[1]) noted that Silicon Valley had “dense social networks the organizational boundaries within companies are porous, as are the boundaries berween [sic] companies themselves and between companies and local institutions such as trade associations and universities.” Moreover, in a pilot survey of 17 small high technology firms in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, it was found that, “The more strongly firms interact with research laboratories and universities, the more likely they are to have come up with at least one major recent product innovation” (Romijn and Albu 2002). 3.3 Regions of Learning Florida (1995, p. 528) observed, “Regions are becoming more important modes of economic and technological organization in this new age of global, knowledge- intensive capitalism.” These regions take on the characteristic of learning regions that act as collectors and repositories of knowledge and ideas and provide the underlying infrastructure, which “facilitates the flow of knowledge, ideas and learning” (Florida 1995, p. 532). Thus, competitive advantage lies within the region in its ability to generate and harness knowledge and ideas. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  10. 10. Lawson’s (2000) view is that regions obtain competitive advantage, just like firms, through their system of core competences. Core competences represent the total collective learning of firms, their ability to integrate multiple streams of technology and coordinate diverse production skills. In this move towards knowledge-intensive capitalism, the key economic unit of production, and ultimately wealth creation, shifts from the firm to the region. “It involves the development of new inputs and a broader infrastructure at the regional level on which individual firms and production complexes of firms can draw” (Florida 1995, p. 531). Just as features such as continuous improvement, knowledge creation, new ideas and organisation learning describe and characterise the knowledge-intensive firm the same features describe and characterise the learning region: Learning regions provide the crucial inputs required for knowledge and intensive economic organisation to flourish: a manufacturing infrastructure of interconnected vendors and suppliers; a human infrastructure that can produce knowledge workers, facilitates the development of a team orientation, and which is organised around life-long learning; a physical and communication infrastructure which facilitates and supports constant sharing of information, electronic exchange of data and information, just-in-time delivery of goods and services, and integration into the global economy; and capital allocation and industrial governance systems attuned to the needs of knowledge-intensive organizations. (Florida 1995, p. 534) 4. Turning Clusters into Learning Regions TSER European research network conducted research within ten regional clusters of technology intensive firms, namely Cambridge, Oxford, Sophia-Antipolis, Munich, the Dutch Randstad, Pisa, Piacenza and NE Milano, Goteborg, Helsinki, and Barcelona. Considering the heterogeneity of these regions, the research clearly identified in the successful high-technology regional clusters active local inter-firm and inter- organisational processes that promoted learning, knowledge development, and “exceptional levels of technological and product innovation” (Keeble 2000, p. 220). © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  11. 11. These key regional collective learning processes were the creation of new businesses through spinouts and entrepreneurship, a dynamic knowledge-based labour market, “active and relatively intense local networking” (Keeble 2000, p. 214), and collaboration linkages between local firms complemented by linkages to global innovation networks. These processes operated mainly between individual firms irrespective of size. However, regional institutional support mechanisms also had identifiable influences on these processes (Keeble 2000). 4.1 Institutions Institutions, such as major universities and research institutes, played an important role in encouraging collective learning in their regional high-technology cluster. In relation to the key regional collective learning processes, the roles played by institutions were as follows (Keeble 2000): • Generating local technology-based spinouts – for example, in Oxford, 18% of high technology SMEs were spunout from Oxford University whilst in Cambridge, Cambridge University accounted for 17%. In general, “Britain's universities have spun out [sic] more than 4,000 companies, exploiting research from their academics and securing external finance from investors” (Jones 2002, p[3]) • Training of knowledge practitioners such as scientists, engineers, researchers, managers and other graduates – for example, in Grenoble, “‘The development of skilled manpower in computing (software and hardware) has powerfully influenced firm location in more profound ways than just as a result of traditional labour market considerations’” (de Bernardy, 1999, pp. 349, 351) • Collaborating with regional firms in research and technology development activities – for instance, 54% of SMEs report close links with Oxford University or a local public research institute; however, the research suggests the need to obtain specialised technological expertise is more national and global than regional © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  12. 12. 4.2 Regional Support Initiatives Keeble (2000) noted that during the 1990s, in several regional high technology clusters, regional initiatives were aimed specifically at encouraging regional collective learning. Keeble suggested that this trend involved a coalition of diverse organisations such as large firms, universities, SMEs, local and regional governments, trades unions, public research institutions and business and training agencies. The principal aim was to reduce or remove barriers that affected regional business growth, such as access to venture capital and financing, developing collaborative relationships between local firms and universities and using tools, such as the Internet, to market and brand the region. Specific examples of regional support initiatives include: • Cambridge Network – a high-technology business-led initiative aimed at raising the global profile of and increasing the degree of local networking between Cambridge IT companies (Keeble 2000). Support now extends to other high-tech areas, such as biotechnology, and the Cambridge Network provides an online service where members and non-members, for example, can obtain news and up-to-date information on events for networking opportunities, post job opportunities and CVs, or access a local directory of companies and individuals (see figure 3) – ( Moreover, visitors to the Cambridge Network can use the bFORA link on the Website (see figure 3) to navigate to other partnered networks, such as OxIT and the Munich Network. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  13. 13. Figure 3. Cambridge Network events diary • bFORA – this is a forum for information exchange and exploration of other business networks. bFORA categorises content such as jobs and news by network, and events by areas such as Hi-Tech, Conference and Technology Transfer (see figure 4). Access to content is through a link that transfers users to the network that provided the content. Currently, there are seven bFORA lines or high-level categories. Apart from those mentioned, they include Business Cluster, Science Park, East of England and West Midlands ( © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  14. 14. Figure 4. bFORA event calendar • New Science Parks and Incubators – apart from the original Cambridge Science Park established in 1970, other parks that have been established include St John’s Innovation Park, Melbourn Science Park, Granta Park, Cambridge Research Park, a biotechnology incubator at Hinxton Hall, and a technology park at the Babraham Institute (Keeble 2000). • East of England Development Agency (EEDA) – EEDA was established on 1 April 1999 by the UK government as one of nine RDAs. The RDAs were tasked with developing regional economic development strategies. Since January 2003, their remit has included both developing and implementing regional cluster policies (Department of Trade and Industry n.d.). EEDA has outlined its strategy for the East of England as identifying, developing and supporting local initiatives; sourcing extra-regional finance and directing that finance to cluster initiatives, accordingly; building on local network foundations; contributing expert and specialist resources and sharing of accumulated knowledge and experience. EEDA seeks to assist firms and organisations that operate in the following clusters: environmental, motor © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  15. 15. sports, medical devices auto (advanced engineering) and energy (EEDA n.d., Wathen 2003). • Regional Infrastructure for Innovation (RII) – this is a regional collaboration of ten Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the East of England. Participating HEIs include ( o Anglia Polytechnic University o University of Cambridge o Norwich School of Art and Design o Cranfield University o University of Luton o University of Essex o University of Hertfordshire o University of East Anglia o The Open University o Writtle College The RII is developing ways for businesses and organisations in the East of England to “gain access to and support for the innovation services they require to enhance their growth and development” ( Access to the combined capabilities of regional universities will allow businesses and organisations to capitalise on opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration, which is particularly useful to SMEs that are looking to gain access to both intellectual and physical resources and support innovation in their quest for growth and greater profitability ( One way that the RII seeks to support business and organisations is by providing information on events run by member HEIs through their event calendar (see figure 5). © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  16. 16. Figure 5. Events calendar for Regional Infrastructure for Innovation In November 2003, RII will be re-launched as Innovation 10 (I10) (Website: I10 has been funded by EEDA with the aim of providing businesses with a central repository of the core knowledge, expertise and facilities of regional HEIs so that businesses within the clusters targeted by EEDA’s cluster policy can more readily identify knowledge transfer institutions (Kitson 2003b). Like RII, I10 will also promote the events of member HEIs, and special I10 events. Events will be distributed through both traditional channels, such as the post, and non-traditional ones – for example, email and an event calendar similar to RII (Kitson 2003b). • Oxford-Cambridge Arc (O2C) – is an initiative of regional HEIs, sub-regional economic partnerships (such as the Milton Keynes Economic Partnership and the Northamptonshire Sub-regional Strategic Partnership), the private sector and three regional RDAs. Its principal objective is to make the region © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  17. 17. between and around Oxford and Cambridge “the largest and most successful knowledge-based economy in Europe with realistic ambitions to become the world leader” (Oxford-Cambridge Arc 2003). As part of this policy, O2C is looking to encourage and facilitate “exceptional levels of interaction” between the various regional stakeholders through three main activities (Oxford- Cambridge Arc 2003): o Networking and Brokering – developing a network of champions, formal and informal contact facilitation, lobbying organisations, managing and communicating the existence of events to foster networking and knowledge transfer, issuing a regular e-newsletter on events and activities within the arc o Initiating and Managing Projects – assessment of community needs, infrastructure improvements, creating a database of organisations within the arc, creating an O2C Arc website to communicate important information and to facilitate community communication, developing event planning capabilities to enable networking and brokering o Promoting of the Arc – champion the region nationally and internationally to attract inward investment, secure funding for infrastructure improvement, promote sector-specific growth (biotechnology, aeronautics, automotive, ICT and telecommunications), infrastructure funding O2C is still in its formative stages and its strategy to implement its mission is still evolving. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  18. 18. References de Bernardy, M. (1999). “Reactive and Proactive Local Territory: Co-operation and Community in Grenoble,” Regional Studies 33(4):353-52. Quoted in D. Keeble and F. Wilkinson (ed). (2002). High-Technology Clusters, Networking and Collective Learning in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Department of Trade and Industry. (n.d.). Clusters. (WWW document). (accessed 19 August 2003). Department of Trade and Industry. (1998). Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy. (WWW document). (accessed 29 June 2003). Doeringer, P. B. and D. G. Terkla. (1995). Business Strategy and Cross-Industry Clusters. Economic Development Quarterly 9(3): 225-37. European Commission. (2002). The Observatory of European SMEs. Regional Clusters in Europe. (WWW document). servatory_2002_report3_en.pdf (accessed 20 July 2003). EEDA. (n.d.). EEDA Overview. (WWW document). (accessed 26 July 2003). Florida, R. (1995). Toward the Learning Region. Futures 27(5): 527-36. Jacobs, D. and A-P. De Man. (1996). Clusters, Industrial Policy and Firm Strategy: A Menu Approach. Technology Analysis and Strategic Management 8(4): 425- 37. Jones, S. (2002). Survey – UK Science Parks: Centres Take Their Place In Regeneration. Financial Times. 1 May. Keeble, D. (2000). Collective Processes in European High-Technology Milieux. Edited by D. Keeble and F. Wilkinson., High-Technology Clusters, Networking and Collective Learning in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Lawson, C. (2000). Collective Learning, System Competences and Epistemically Significant Moments. Edited by D. Keeble and F. Wilkinson, High-Technology Clusters, Networking and Collective Learning in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited. © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved
  19. 19. Lorenzen, M. (1999). Copenhagen Business School. Regional Competitiveness, Localised Learning and Policy, Working paper no.: 99-13. (WWW document). (accessed 8 August 2003). Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. (2000). Planning for Clusters. (WWW document). m_plan_606006.pdf (accessed 25 June 2003). Oxford-Cambridge Arc. (2003). The Spirit of Innovation. (WWW document). (accessed 20 August 2003). Porter, M. E. (1990). The Competitive Advantage of Nations. London: Macmillan Press Ltd. Porter, M. E. (1998). Clusters and the New Economics of Competition. Harvard Business Review 76(6): 77-90. Prahalad, C. K. and G. Hamel. (1990). The Core Competence of the Corporation. Harvard Business Review 68(3): 79-91. Romijn, H. and M. Albu. (2002). Innovation, Networking and Proximity: Lessons from Small High Technology Firms in the UK. Regional Studies 36(1): 86-91. Rosenfeld, S. A. (1997). Bringing Business Clusters into the Mainstream of Economic Development. European Planning Studies 5(1): 3-25. Saxenian, A. (1994). Silicon Valley versus Route 128. Inc 16(2): 25-26. Wathen, M. (2003). EEDA’s Cluster Strategy. Presentation (draft). EEDA © 2003 Peter Louis. All Rights Reserved