Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Regional Cluster Policies in Germany: An Interregional Comparison in Institutional and Political-economic Perspective

Regional Cluster Policies in Germany: An Interregional Comparison in Institutional and Political-economic Perspective

Led by:  Dr. Matthias Kiese
Team:  Dr. Matthias Kiese (Postdoctoral Dissertation Project)
Year:  2008
Funding:  own resources
Duration:  2006 - 2008
Is Finished:  yes

Since the 1990s, the popularity of the cluster concept in the politics and practice of regional and local economic development has surged far ahead of our theoretical understanding and empirical knowledge on clusters. At the same time, the direct use of scientific expertise in policy-making has declined substantially. To contribute to a reversal of this tendency and thus to increase its relevance for the resolution of broader societal issues, economic geography needs to improve its understanding of political mechanisms and their institutional embeddedness, which may lead to very different regional interpretations of the cluster concept in practice. Hence, the fuzzy interfaces between the conceptual, political and practical action spaces provide important points of departure for research. This project thus aims at describing, explaining and evaluating regional cluster policies in selected federal states and places across West Germany from a comparative perspective.

Apart from the necessary operationalisation of the term ‘cluster policy’

  1. two interdependent sub-targets need to be addressed, informed by institutional and political-economic perspectives:
  2. the diffusion and adaptation of the cluster concept across space and time governed by the countervailing forces of institutional variety and convergence
  3. the relationship between theoretical and empirical research on cluster following economic rationality on the one hand, and the realms of politics and practice which are governed by distinctive political and bureaucratic rationalities, respectively. At the interface between conceptual and political action space, the role of professional consultants has been hitherto largely neglected when analysing issues of regional and local economic development policy.

The fieldwork focuses on the three federal states which have been chosen to broadly represent high-tech regions (Bavaria), old industrial areas facing the challenge of structural change (North Rhine-Westphalia), and the grey-mass type of region in between the two extremes that is typically neglected in economic geography and regional science research (Lower Saxony). Besides the state governments’ cluster policies, three case studies are chosen at the sub-regional or local scale in each state according to a set of definitional criteria for cluster policies, i.e. governance, cluster reference, complexity, cluster content, and maturity. Depending on the case study’s complexity, between eight and twelve semi-structured interviews with key actors, stakeholders and independent experts are conducted. Using a common framework, the case studies will be written up individually and systematically analysed in a comparative perspective.


  • Kiese, M. (2009): Cluster la Vista? Crisis and Response in East Germany''s Silicon Saxony. In: International Labor Brief, 7(6), S. 18-28. Download english | korean
  • Kiese, M. (2009): Die Clusterpolitik deutscher Länder und Regionen als Herausforderung für die Evaluation. In: Wessels, J. (Hrsg.): Cluster- und Netzwerkevaluation: Aktuelle Beispiele aus der Praxis. Berlin: Institut für Innovation und Technik, S. 27-38. Download