National cluster development in other countries

Clusters are an important component of regional and national strategies for growth and innovation in many countries and are also high on the growth policy agenda in international organisations such as the EU. However, obtaining a cohesive view of the division between research-oriented and market-oriented clusters is difficult.

Within the scope of the development work in the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth concerning the programme period after 2010, the agency commissioned the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis (Growth Analysis) to prepare a knowledge basis for cluster development with a particular focus on research-oriented and marketoriented clusters. In accordance with that assignment, this report comprises an overview of national cluster development in Finland, Germany and Japan. In addition to this, policy at the EU level is also discussed.

From the conclusions, it is clear that:

  • The national and regional cluster policies in Germany, Finland and Japan, as well as the EU, have a common denominator in the ambition to link together business, academia and knowledge organisations in various ways. The emphasis is on networking, regions and internationalisation. A triple-helix perspective appears to generally be present.
  • The division between market-oriented and research-oriented cluster programmes is unclear. However, here, the Japanese METI and MEXT programmes are more concrete examples.
  • Governance of clusters is a current issue and the example that stands out most in the report in this respect is Cluster Offensive Bavaria, which has both a cluster manager and a cluster spokesperson as the face outwards. Continuity in terms of the clusters’ management is considered to be important. In the European Commission, management/governance may be the area in cluster policy where the most concrete work is currently under way through the “European Cluster Excellence” initiative with plans for a certification schedule for cluster managers and a special forum.
  • In Germany and Finland, clusters are directly or indirectly included in the national innovation strategies.
  • The cluster programmes in the chosen countries differ in terms of their selections. In some cases, selection is done as a competition through which interested candidates must qualify. In other cases, such as Cluster Offensive Bavaria, selection is made entirely by the region.
  • The German examples focus primarily on excellence, while the Finnish are generally more focused on linking expertise between geographic environments and improving framework conditions. Today, Japan’s cluster policy can mainly be described as a policy for regional development.
  • The Finnish SHOK programme is an interesting concept characterised by geographical co-location not necessarily being a requirement for its clusters. The nature of publicprivate partnerships and the fact that they are based on a joint research agenda makes them unique.
  • On the EU level, the Regions of Knowledge constitute an important instrument with an emphasis on a stronger link between research actors, business and local and regional authorities.
  • Gradually increasing private co-financing in the clusters is a clear trend. However, the public principals in Germany or Finland have no ambition to fully phase out their involvement. The Bavarian example shows that it may also be politically sensitive to phase out public involvement in a cluster. Exit strategies are also under consideration in Japan in terms of a transfer to the city/region. One observation in successful exit strategies is that they begin as early as the formation of the actual cluster and during the selection process.
  • The majority of the examples discussed in the report proved to have been evaluated. The results indicate that the cluster programmes are appreciated by virtually all involved parties.
  • Within the European Commission, several interesting projects related to clusters are under way in statistics (Cluster Observatory), measurement of results (the European Cluster Alliance) and with regard to the work that takes place in the “high-level group” for cluster policy. An important issue for the future is how financial instruments such as framework programmes for R&D (through the Regions of Knowledge), the structure funds and CIP will be able to be coordinated and complement each other to a greater extent.
  • Swedish developments in the cluster area are being monitored with great interest by the European Commission, given the fact that the Baltic strategy launched during the Swedish Presidency of the European Union in 2009 concerns regional research cooperation.

The European Commission is particularly interested in obtaining more understanding of how Sweden links and coordinates its various commitments in the light of a general need for a more integrated approach to these issues.

National cluster development in other countries

Serial number: Report 2010:04

Reference number: 2010/124

Download the report in Swedish Pdf, 1.8 MB.


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