Clusters being devalued, says UK expert


 Cockatoo member, Paquita Lamacraft (Milton Keynes, UK), provides timely advice on the state of clusters. 

‘In the course of our daily work we use clusters as a vital part of a toolkit, but not as a sole activity to advance towards more robust regional economies.  

The ‘dumbing down’ of cluster initiatives is a cause for concern. We know that when clustering techniques are soundly applied and driven by commercial imperatives (and not bureaucratic tick boxes), they work stupendously well.

But the whole terminology has become devalued. Britain is awash with £ for clusters and then they say – ‘but how do you engage industry?’ – after having just claimed great success in cluster strategy development.  I think this makes an interesting point in our development.

Those of us who got together at the outset of CAP (foreunner to Cockatoo) to form it did so because we recognised clustering as a tool that worked and that our business and industry understood (enlightened self-interest) that in turn created a better regional business climate etc.  

In fact , John Dean and I sat and looked at each other at the first of our Economic Development Institute courses in San Diego and said – ‘Hey! They are talking theory with a label – we’ve been doing this because it just seemed logical and are 2 years down the track as practitioners, as are many of our colleagues”. Neither of us recognised until then that the term ‘clusters’ had been developed by Porter to categorise this process – well, I should not speak for John, but I didn’t for sure!’

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