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The Contested Cluster Concept: Paradoxical Pathways to Nordic Innovations
Department of Business Administration, Luleå University of Technology.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Politics and History.
2013 (English)In: International Journal of Innovation Science, ISSN 1757-2223, Vol. 5, no 1, 11-20 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The cluster concept has had great influence on national and regional policies for growth and innovation in Sweden since it was introduced in the late 1990s. This article argues that while the cluster concept has been relatively uncontested on the national policy arena, it has been contested on the regional arena regarding its meaning and proper use. We scrutinize this contestation as a matter of power struggles between different actors concerning the preferential right of interpretation of which organizations, areas and innovations are to be considered as important in policies and practices promoting clusters. The article thus highlights the tricky balance act performed by policy makers and civil servants when deciding on prioritization versus diversification. The article contributes to the further development of both policies and theories on growth and innovation by empirically mapping and discussing the impact of power struggles onclusters as pathways to innovation. In order to exemplify these struggles, our study draws upon two separate studies: one of how the cluster concept has been used as a policy measure over time on national and regional level in Sweden (Säll, 2012) and another of the organization of alternative clusters by Women Resource Centers throughout Sweden (Lindberg et al., 2012). Comparing these two cases makes it evident that the perceptions of clusters that harmonize with prevalent hegemonic discourses of growth and innovation have to large extent enjoyed the preferential right of interpretation, however are at the same time challenged by alternative conceptions of clusters. When highlighted in relation to existing research on innovation, growth policy and power relations, the two empiricalexamples stand out as interesting cases of how innovation policy has been introduced as academic theory, translated to a political context and subject for contestations that has changed the initial meaning of the concept. Ultimately, it is concluded that the pathways to innovation in the Nordic countries are paradoxical, due to the paradoxical pathway of policies and practices to evoke innovation and change as the same as preserving traditional regional power structures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Multi-Science Publishing, 2013. Vol. 5, no 1, 11-20 p.
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-26744DOI: 10.1260/1757-2223.5.1.11OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-26744DiVA: diva2:612641
Available from: 2013-03-22 Created: 2013-03-22 Last updated: 2013-10-30Bibliographically approved

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