The Pitfalls and Booby Traps of Cluster Policy

Gunther Maier, Michaela Trippl

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper


Over the past two decades, cluster policies have become a standard instrument of
public authorities and economic development practitioners in many parts of the
world. This paper takes a critical stance on this phenomenon and provides
theoretical arguments that challenge the widespread application of cluster initiatives
to promote long-term regional development. We distinguish between and compare
two main bodies of thought: the neoclassical view and the agglomeration view. We
show that there are no rationales for cluster policy from the perspective of
neoclassical theory. The agglomeration view, in contrast, provides a convincing
conceptual basis for justifying economic policies implemented in form of cluster
initiatives. At the same time, however, it points to major problems related with the
cluster policy approach. We identify and elaborate on three essential difficulties, i.e.
the proper (1) targeting, (2) dosing, and (3) timing of cluster policy actions. We
highlight that the problems related with these fundamental issues of each public
initiative constitute powerful pitfalls and booby traps of cluster policies. (author's abstract)
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameSRE - Discussion Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • SRE - Discussion Papers

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