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2013. 12. 23.I author: European Association of Development Agencies -

The role of clusters in Smart Specialisation Strategies

DG Research and Innovation published an expert report on the role of clusters in Smart Specialisation Strategies. The report compares similarities and differences between RIS3 and cluster approaches.

The document tackles the following issues:

  • Chapter 1 identifies the commonalities and differences between the two concepts as they are defined and discussed in the various strands of literature. This helps disentangle the key elements for which cluster policy experience can be used to inform and support Smart Specialisation Strategies, but also highlights the limits of this potential contribution.
  • Chapter 2 looks at policy practice. It discusses first, the way Smart Specialisation Strategies are applied so far and the challenges ahead and second, enlightens the main features of cluster policies and draws the lessons learned from their application. On this basis, it proposes an argumentation for several areas where cluster policies have the potential to contribute to Smart Specialisation Strategies.


The lessons learned are the following:

The practice of cluster policies is characterized by heterogeneity of approaches and outcomes. For clusters and cluster policies to make their full contribution to S3, three key lessons from this rich experience of cluster practice should be kept in mind:

  1. First, the extent to which cluster policies are appropriate for a specific cluster, differs according to the stage of cluster development (mature versus emerging clusters);
  2. Second, the extent to which cluster policies are appropriate for a specific region, depends on the overall level of regional competitiveness (advanced versus lagging regions);
  3. Third, there are general lessons of good practice for clusters and cluster policies to take into account.

A further potential pitfall relates to the path-dependency/lock-in dynamics in regions with existing cluster policies. The existence of such policies in a region may be a hindrance to develop forwardlooking S3, since there is likely to be a considerable degree of inertia, impeding the shift towards new, less traditional potentially more promising specialisation areas, crossing over the traditional sector boundaries along which many clusters are defined.


Click here for the full report.

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