A qualitative study of clusters and innovation systems
Innovation systems and clusters are perhaps the most widely used concepts found in recent literature in economic geography focusing on innovative industrial production and locational agglomeration. Both concepts have been universally embraced from the early 1990s onwards. However, recent literature has expressed criticism of their use as tools for policy-making. We studied innovation and cluster rhetoric in a geographical context by using empirical evidence obtained from the policy documents of the Finnish regional councils. We used a theoretical conception of spatial scaling as a geographical framework. Spatial scales proved to be a black box for regional strategies in Finland. Regional strategic programmes use a similar language that ignores the spatial variations of their locations. Clusters and regional innovation systems should be considered as parts of vertical and horizontal interlinkages within the economy and not as individual islands of organizational proximities in isolated contexts. It is argued here that an imprecise understanding of the innovation systems and cluster approaches, both conceptually and practically, has led to some ambiguity, resulting in the use of these terms as buzzwords. This misuse hampers the ability of administrations to execute regional development in their respective areas.
Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift, 2014, Vol 68, Issue 4, p. 216-227