Sub-theme 18: Dynamics of Clusters: Emergence, Development and Success


Walter W. Powell, Stanford University, USA
Kjersten Bunker Whittington, Reed College, USA
Michael Gilding, Swinburne University, Australia

Call for Papers

The spatial concentration of economic and cultural activities has been widely noted, ever since the 19th century. The agglomeration of activities as diverse as filmmaking, advertising, biotechnology, and shoemaking, to name but a few, occurs in highly productive clusters in select locations globally (Grabher, 2001; Lorenzen and Fredericksen, 2008; Scott, 2005; Sorenson & Audia 2000, Whittington, Owen-Smith, and Powell 2009). Why do clusters form and succeed in only a few places? The core of successful clusters consists of a dense network of relationships that span organizational boundaries and draw together participants in a host of related and supporting activities. The 19th century British economist Alfred Marshall, in referring to the silk industry of Lyon and the leather industry of Bologna, famously referred to these as places where “the secrets of industry are in the air” (1920). But the roots and patterns of pronounced agglomeration are not always obvious, and the unique properties by which propinquity intersects with social structure are ripe for exploration. How does collaboration successfully emerge in some places and not others, and how is it facilitated? In recent years cities have emerged as new units of innovation, competing with one another to attract businesses, industries, and creative individuals who catalyze organizational formation (Storper, 2013). Increasingly, urban centers have become the spaces in which new fields and industries emerge. What sustains these relationships? Why do some clusters with all the ingredients for success fail at building successful collaborations among co-located organizations? What determines whether relationships end gracefully, rather than acrimoniously, and re-form in myriad ways?

This stream builds upon the conference theme of spaces, constraint and creativity to focus on how clusters foster, develop, and maintain productive organizational spaces. We welcome studies of clusters in cultural, high-tech, and traditional industries. We are also interested in studies of aborted efforts at cluster formation, and unsuccessful attempts by cities and regions to form them. Our hope is to attract empirical work across numerous regions and countries, as well as from diverse disciplines. The overall aim is to shed light on the factors that catalyze cluster formation and contribute to their vitality, as well as to understand their sources of failure and stagnation. With this, we particularly invite – but do not limit to – papers addressing the following topics:

  • Factors that make cities attractive to entrepreneurial clusters;
  • Necessary linkages that foster vibrancy and resilience rather than cut-throat competition – between universities, research institutes, businesses, and supporting institutions;
  • In successful clusters, the consequences of cluster formation for those in sectors not directly involved in the favored areas of work;
  • Factors by which organizations in fields outside of successful clusters support or take part in the fruits of agglomeration nearby (or from afar);
  • Arrangements – institutional, organizational, or otherwise – that allow cities and regions to change course or transform their industrial focus over time.


Grabher G, 2001, “Ecologies of creativity: the Village, the Group, and the heterarchic organisation of the British advertising industry” Environment and Planning A 33(2) 351 – 374

Lorenzen, M. and Frederiksen, L., 2008. Why do cultural industries cluster? Localization, urbanization, products and projects. In: P. Cooke and L. Lazzeretti, eds. Creative cities, cultural clusters and local economic development. Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 155-179.

Marshall, Alfred. (1920). Principles of Economics: An Introductory Volume. London: Macmillan. 8th edn of Marshall (1890a).

Scott, Allen. 2005. On Hollywood: The Place, The Industry.  Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Sorenson, Olav, and Pino G. Audia. 2000. “The social structure of entrepreneurial activity: Geographic concentration of footwear production in the US, 1940-1989.” American Journal of Sociology, 106: 424-461

Storper, Michael. 2013. Keys to the City. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Whittington, Kjersten Bunker, Jason Owen-Smith, and Walter W. Powell. 2009. “Networks, Propinquity and Innovation in Technological Communities.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 54:90-122.

Walter W. Powell is professor of education and (by courtesy) professor of sociology, organizational

behavior, management science, communication, and public policy at Stanford University, USA. His most recent book, The Emergence of Organizations and Markets, written with John Padgett, was published by Princeton University Press.

Kjersten Bunker Whittington is associate professor of sociology at Reed College.   Her research interests include regional clustering among science-based firms, the network structure of science collaborations in biotechnology, and topics related to gender and inequality in science.

Prof. Michael Gilding is executive dean of the faculty of business and enterprise at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include biotechnology clusters and networks in locations far from global hubs, and network formation in technical innovation and business model innovation.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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