"Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. Clusters encompass an array of linked industries and other entities important to competition. They include, for example, suppliers of specialized inputs such as components, machinery, and services, and providers of specialized infrastructure. Clusters also often extend downstream to channels and customers and laterally to manufacturers of complementary products and to companies in industries related by skills, technologies, or common inputs. Finally, many clusters include governmental and other institutions--such as universities, standards-setting agencies, think tanks, vocational training providers, and trade associations." (Porter, M.E. (1998). "Clusters and the New Economics of Competition," Harvard Business Review, November-December, 1998.)
Increasingly, the competitiveness of metropolitan regions relies on the development of industrial clusters, or geographic concentrations of businesses and institutions in related economic sectors. The physical proximity of the players encourages interaction and promotes the exchange of ideas and expertise.
A look at successful economies also highlights the importance of developing innovative industrial clusters characterized by a high level of interaction among firms, thus enabling them, as a group, to learn about changing economic conditions, adapt to them and benefit from them. The interactive nature of clusters stimulates innovation and economic learning.
Clusters stimulate regional competitiveness in three ways:
Firms that are part of a cluster are expected to operate more efficiently when sourcing inputs; accessing information, technology and institutions; coordinating with related firms; and measuring their performance against other firms so as to improve.