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|Title:||Business clusters in Eastern Europe: policy analysis and cluster performance|
|Publisher:||University of Bologna|
|Abstract:||Clusters have increasingly become an essential part of policy discourses at all levels, EU, national, regional, dealing with regional development, competitiveness, innovation, entrepreneurship, SMEs. These impressive efforts in promoting the concept of clusters on the policy-making arena have been accompanied by much less academic and scientific research work investigating the actual economic performance of firms in clusters, the design and execution of cluster policies and going beyond singular case studies to a more methodologically integrated and comparative approach to the study of clusters and their real-world impact. The theoretical background is far from being consolidated and there is a variety of methodologies and approaches for studying and interpreting this phenomenon while at the same time little comparability among studies on actual cluster performances. The conceptual framework of clustering suggests that they affect performance but theory makes little prediction as to the ultimate distribution of the value being created by clusters. This thesis takes the case of Eastern European countries for two reasons. One is that clusters, as coopetitive environments, are a new phenomenon as the previous centrally-based system did not allow for such types of firm organizations. The other is that, as new EU member states, they have been subject to the increased popularization of the cluster policy approach by the European Commission, especially in the framework of the National Reform Programmes related to the Lisbon objectives. The originality of the work lays in the fact that starting from an overview of theoretical contributions on clustering, it offers a comparative empirical study of clusters in transition countries. There have been very few examples in the literature that attempt to examine cluster performance in a comparative cross-country perspective. It adds to this an analysis of cluster policies and their implementation or lack of such as a way to analyse the way the cluster concept has been introduced to transition economies. Our findings show that the implementation of cluster policies does vary across countries with some countries which have embraced it more than others. The specific modes of implementation, however, are very similar, based mostly on soft measures such as funding for cluster initiatives, usually directed towards the creation of cluster management structures or cluster facilitators. They are essentially founded on a common assumption that the added values of clusters is in the creation of linkages among firms, human capital, skills and knowledge at the local level, most often perceived as the regional level. Often times geographical proximity is not a necessary element in the application process and cluster application are very similar to network membership. Cluster mapping is rarely a factor in the selection of cluster initiatives for funding and the relative question about critical mass and expected outcomes is not considered. In fact, monitoring and evaluation are not elements of the cluster policy cycle which have received a lot of attention. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are the countries which have implemented cluster policies most decisively, Hungary and Poland have made significant efforts, while Slovakia and Romania have only sporadically and not systematically used cluster initiatives. When examining whether, in fact, firms located within regional clusters perform better and are more efficient than similar firms outside clusters, we do find positive results across countries and across sectors. The only country with negative impact from being located in a cluster is the Czech Republic.|
|JRC Directorate:||Space, Security and Migration|
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