The Baltic Region

2019 Vol. 11 № 3

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When and why regional clusters become basic building blocks of modern economy



In this paper, we examine the modern cluster theory and the specific features of regional innovation clusters as complex adaptive systems. Clusters have become a typical pattern of industrial organization in national economies under their transition to innovation-driven model of growth. We provide an overview of the contribution of various theoretical frameworks (evolutionary theory, spatial development theory, theory of technological change and system innovation, and Porter’s competitiveness theory) to the cluster concept and consider the latter from the perspective of complexity economics. On this basis, we differentiate true clusters from their nominal counterparts and propose three analytical dimensions to explore clusters, namely, as a special class of industrial agglomerations, as a special class of innovation ecosystems, and as a special class of economic projects (cluster initiatives). We examine the properties of clusters corresponding to each class and demonstrate their role in the geographical and functional fragmentation of production, in the integration of local exporters into global value chains, and in bridging communication gaps and developing collaboration among economic agents. We show that clusters occupy a central place among various types of business networks and have a comparative edge making them key building blocks of the modern industrial landscape. Further, we explain how the innovation capacity of clusters is affected by network synergy effects arising from the triple-helix pattern of collaboration among their participants. Finally, we draw conclusions regarding national cluster supporting policies, including those applied in modern Russia.