Over the last decades, changes in the global economy and the emergence of Global Value Chains (GVCs) have raised interest in understanding the specific conditions and cross-company interactions within and across locations. For companies, the need to choose the right location for specific activities has moved from an operational to a strategic issue. For countries, regions and cities, competition raised the stakes of understanding how to improve productivity and attract firms in specific fields beyond providing low factor costs and subsidies. Many countries, from natural-resource-rich to transition economies and developed countries have launched competitiveness policies and cluster initiatives involving various stakeholders. This paper addresses how clusters can be leveraged for economic policy and what the role of different stakeholders in this process is. It summarises the cluster concept, focusing on the main theoretical framework and on recent empirical findings, and discusses key pillars of a cluster-based economic policy approach. The paper concludes with an application of the concept to resource-rich, oil-dependent economies.
A new framing of competitiveness has clarified the role of regions in economic policy. Its empirical findings align well with existing literature on the drivers of regional economic performance, but there are opportunities for mutual learning. A step-change in the availability of data on clusters and cluster policies has enabled new research approaches, yet current cluster policies have been largely focused on strengthening existing agglomerations rather than creating new ones.