Cluster Communication and Location Marketing

Clusters generate exciting stories all the time. This makes intelligent cluster communication a good choice for location marketing aimed at positioning a region as an attractive business and science location in global competition.

Clusters are networks of producers, suppliers, research facilities, service providers and associated institutions that develop along a supply chain or concentrate regionally due to shared favorable location factors. These unique factors facilitate collaboration. Very often clusters develop in response to economic structural transformation, or due to crises or structural fractures as a result of intensified global competition.

Clusters and innovation networks have proven to be a powerful form of collaboration that bundles forces and utilizes synergies. For that reason, business development agencies consider the formation of clusters as a way to proactively promote settlement and encourage innovation. Over the past two decades, Germany has established and methodically promoted the building of clusters, which have become an integral part of its economic policy toolkit. The European Commission, and federal and state governments pursue their own cluster-building strategies at different levels of intensity.

For the past 10 years, the national initiatives “gocluster”, “Spitzencluster-Wettbewerb” (cutting-edge cluster competition), “Unternehmen Region” (“Endeavor Region”, an initiative by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research to foster innovation associations), and “Digital Hub Initiative”, have been associated with federal state programs that successfully developed and implemented cluster–focused programs. Clusters operate according to the Quadruple Helix Model, and break down the traditional barriers between industry, academia, and government. When a community of like-minded players from multiple companies, sciences and other organizations come together in such an environment of team work, collaboration, and the sharing of ideas –often involving international partners – positive results abound for all participants and the region alike. This is why clusters will continue to make a significant contribution to advancing innovation in the future.

Fundamentally, clusters and their management organizations primarily pursue economic goals. With or without public funding, which is often the motivating factor for the creation of clusters, cluster participants from the business and science communities seek to convert ideas into successful products. Generally, these are research and development projects, technology transfers, start-up activities, innovation management ventures, business model and/or product development or creation of pilot lines, in particular, for the construction of capital-intensive high-tech products.

The success of cluster initiatives, however, not only depends on common strengths, interests and technologies, but also significantly on the engagement of its participants and the development of a trusting culture of communication within the cluster initiatives, as well as the preparedness of its players to learn and adapt. It requires a balance between company and regional-political benefit and profit, and it is the only way business development initiatives can translate the thematic diversity of clusters into attractive messages for location marketing.

Since the development and evolution of clusters is usually a process that spans a number of years, clusters constantly generate exciting stories for communication activities. They are the basis for both the successful communication of the cluster and location marketing, assuming that clusters and business development work hand-in-hand.

From the very beginning, clusters are well-advised to form a strong bond with one of their most important stakeholders. Ideally, clusters develop their communication strategy in collaboration with local business development agencies, because location marketing by cities, regions and states always includes budgets for marketing and communication. If clusters are successful in placing their topics as central messages of location marketing, the benefits, in the long run, will accrue to the clusters, and to the region.

In the competition for international settlement- and investment decisions, and skilled workers, regions that have built a visible long-term commitment to high-profile innovation topics will be able to score highest. Therefore, cluster communication and location marketing become two sides of the same coin and enhance each other in the interest of regional economic development. Once the work of clusters leads to visible successes, the vision of clusters will be further rewarded. When companies expand and invest in the construction of new transfer-, startup- or other innovation infrastructures, cluster participants can profit from close collaboration and fast approval processes, since cities and communities can be included in the early planning stages of new construction projects.


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