In the current economic situation, clusters are one of the most effective forms of financial / knowledge-based capital integration, providing the necessary competitive advantages (Breault, 2000; European clusters, 2004; Ruigrok and Van Tulder, 1995). In recent years, state programs implemented in the most developed countries are focused on developing so-called cluster strategies (Herliana, 2015; Dohmann et al., 2016; Cheng et al., 2017), in order to reap the benefits of their own national savings in progress. The formation of innovation clusters (*) facilitates the efficient integration of financial / knowledge-based resources both inside and outside the cluster (Eder et al., 2017; Park et al., 2016; Schindler, Fisher and Shonkoff, 2017). [Academy of Strategic Management Journal 2018 (Print ISSN: 1544-1458; Online ISSN: 1939-6104) – Innovation Clusters and Regional Development]
The difference between an innovation cluster and other forms of economic integration (Njos and Jakobsen, 2016; Raines, 2017; Burdina, Kaloshina and Chizhik, 2017) is that companies under the cluster do not opt for a full merger (Vaz and et al., 2014; Lai et al., 2014; Lee, Lee and Oh, 2017), but creates an interaction mechanism that allows them to maintain legal status and, at the same time, to cooperate with other companies that form another cluster (Bellandi et al., 2014; Krebs, 2016; Yoon, 2017).
There was a complex combination of competition and cooperation modeled within clusters, especially in the context of innovation processes (Salvador, Mariotti and Conicella, 2013; Yim, 2014; Zheng, 2017).
Similarities and differences between physical and virtual location are also subject to discussions when comparing technology parks with innovation clusters.
The roles of the clusters is reinforced by the pandemic context. Clusters must play in helping the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, boosting the competitiveness and internationalisation of businesses whilst fostering the green and digital transitions of the European economy.
The European cluster policy (https://www.clustercollaboration.eu/) emphasizes the following:
- Clusters are drivers and enablers of change in the context of the green and digital transitions and building resilience as Europe recovers from COVID-19
- International and interregional collaboration through clusters is a key tool for supporting innovation, industrial modernisation and the scaling up of SMEs as well as the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce
- The right partners – policymakers, SME intermediaries and industry – need to be involved
- Funding opportunities, dedicated support, new initiatives and sustainable partnerships are needed to advance collaboration in specialised sectors and ecosystems
The innovation cluster includes the whole innovation chain: from generating scientific knowledge and business ideas on its basis to selling market products.
Effective clusters give a boost to innovation while their members gain advantages, such as susceptibility to innovation, rationalization, outpacing productivity growth.
(*)”Innovation clusters means groupings of independent undertakings — innovative start-ups, small, medium and large undertakings as well as research organizations — operating in a particular sector and region and designed to stimulate innovative activity by promoting intensive interactions, sharing of facilities and exchange of knowledge and expertise and by contributing effectively to technology transfer, networking and information dissemination among the undertakings in the cluster.