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Competitive Regional Clusters

National Policy Approaches

image of Competitive Regional Clusters

In today’s globalising world, 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.  National programmes to promote cluster-based approaches -- linking firms, people and knowledge at a regional level -- are being used to meet the challenge. This report analyses the objectives, targeting, instruments and inter-governmental role sharing used by 26 programmes in 14 OECD countries. It will be of interest to policy makers, researchers, firms and others active in promoting innovation and competitiveness.

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Introduction

While the cluster concept is not new and remains subject to debate, national programmes based on a general cluster model continue to be prominent and are adapted to an increasingly wide variety of contexts. This study assesses different national level strategies and instruments used to promote regional specialisation and clusters. The theoretical concepts are not new and the debates continue about the empirical evidence supporting the benefits of regional specialisation and clusters. The goal of the report is not to revisit a theoretical debate regarding definitions. Rather, it seeks to understand why, in practice, there is renewed policy interest in promoting specialisation and clustering as both a general economic development tool and a means to achieve greater regional and national competitiveness. These national level initiatives have been complemented by numerous programmes at the local level.

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