This chapter deals with an intriguing paradox in current regional economic policy: whereas unique local factors are increasingly seen as the determinants of regional economic success, more and more governments simultaneously try to copy policy experiences that have proved successful in a particular region. A good example here is the use of 'best practices' in the field of regional cluster policy. Cluster programmes are like 'mantras' for policymakers wanting to stimulate regional development. Given this paradox, the present chapter addresses the question of what lessons can be drawn from comparing the success stories of regional clustering. In order to answer this question, we combine insights from regional economics and comparative public policy. To begin with, we discuss the literature that has led to the popularity of the cluster concept as a learning device among policymakers. We then identify the preconditions ('contingencies') affecting whether or not these cluster policy initiatives can be transferred from one place to another. We find that some of the contingent influences, especially those related to the degree of uniqueness of the economic structure and culture of an area, hamper the possibility of 'learning by comparing' in regional cluster policy. It may even be argued that it is exactly these regional specificities which explain the success of cluster-based policy efforts. Thus we arrive at the rather pessimistic conclusion that the possibilities of 'lesson-drawing' in regional cluster policy are limited. In our view 'best practices' should be seen at best as sources of inspiration rather than as recipes for successful regional economic development.
|Title of host publication||Cultural Uniqueness and Regional Economy|
|Editors||E. Boneschansker, J. van Dijk, L.G.J. Jansma, K.H.A. Verhaar|
|Place of Publication||Leeuwarden|
|Number of pages||17|
|ISBN (Print)||90 6171963 1|
|Publication status||Published - 2004|