Collaboration in 'clusters' between businesses and associated institutions with common interests - such as universities, trade associations and public authorities - can result in a more competitive, productive and innovative environment.
Benefits of clusters
The grouped businesses start to build a strong knowledge base. Educational institutions begin to specialise in the cluster's activity, which brings in and produces more skilled workers. This level of expertise encourages innovation and new start-up businesses, and also draws venture capital into the cluster - encouraging further growth.
Clusters can contribute to the foundation of knowledge and help stimulate technological innovation, as is seen in the technology clusters in California's Silicon Valley and Bangalore in India. They may also spur creative innovation, as in the fashion designing clusters in Paris and Mumbai.
Clusters can facilitate commercialisation and new business formation through spin-offs and start-ups. One cluster often seeds or enhances other clusters as it disperses activities in the value chain to reduce risk, access cheaper inputs or better serve particular regional markets. A good example of this 'domino' effect is the optics cluster in Arizona, which gave rise to further clusters in plastics, aerospace, environment technologies, information technologies and biosciences.
Helping clusters to maximise their potential
To help clusters maximise their potential, there are a number of cluster initiatives that aim to tackle barriers to growth. Support for clusters includes helping companies access a skilled workforce, quality universities, good sites and investment capital. Growth in these clusters also attracts suitable suppliers and customers to the area. Find out how to collaborate with other businesses and institutions on the Invest NI website.