The most important cluster terms at a glance

At the beginning of the 1990s, the American economist Michael E. Porter made an assumption about the competitiveness of companies, industries, regions and nations, which formed the basis of modern cluster theory. In view of increasing industrial transformation processes and open global markets, the importance of location is, contrary to expectations, to be regarded as central in terms of economic development and the emergence of cross-sectoral innovations. Innovations primarily arise at the interfaces between different industries and are thus becoming increasingly complex. Particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it is becoming more and more difficult to assert themselves in competition due to the constantly changing framework conditions. This is precisely where cluster initiatives have the potential to contribute by bringing together and networking different actors.

In order to obtain an overview of the most important terms and a uniform understanding of the term “cluster” and the terms closely related to it, the following definitions apply to the Clusterplattform Deutschland.

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Clusters are geographical concentrations of interlinked companies and institutions in related industries or technologies that complement each other through collaborative interaction and activities along one (or more) value chain(s). Key criteria for determining this are the regional proximity of the actors, a sufficient number and density of companies and research institutions (critical mass), thematic-market proximity (horizontal: same products, services; vertical: same value chain or stages of it) and at least national sales potential of the products and services. The proximity of the actors along the value chain in terms of technology and content and their regional proximity leads to intensified innovation processes.

Porter 1998