The elusive concept of localization economies: towards a knowledge-based theory of spatial clustering

17 Jan 2018, 3 p.m.
Anders Malmberg Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University,

Abstract. A number of possible advantages of industry agglomerationöor spatial clusteringöhave been identified in the research literature, notably those related to shared costs for infrastructure, the build-up of a skilled labour force, transaction efficiency, and knowledge spillovers leading to firm learning and innovation.We identify two shortcomings of existing research on the clustering phenomenon. First, the abundance of theoretical concepts and explanations stands in sharp contrast with the general lack of work aimed at validating these mechanisms empirically and the contradictory evidence found in recent empirical work in the field. Second, there is still a lack of a unified theoretical framework for analyzing spatial clustering. In an attempt to remedy the latter shortcoming, this paper investigates the nature of the cluster from a knowledge-creation or learning perspective. We argue for the need to establish a specific theory of the cluster where learning occupies centre stage. The basic requirements for such a theory of the cluster are discussed. Two main components of such a theory are identified: it must explain the existence of the cluster on the one hand and its internal organization on the other.

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