The figure of the cluster  (widely used in business and economic environments) has served twenty years since M. Porter introduced in his book “The Competitive Advantage of Nations in 1990 but the underlying concept of agglomeration economies has already been used by economists in the 1890s and especially in the work of Alfred Marshall.

A business cluster (Wikipedia) is a “geographic concentration of business initiatives, suppliers and associated institutions in a particular field.” The role of a cluster has been crucial  in enhancing the productivity between companies that allow them to achieve an important competitive edge in national and international framework.

Porter eventually opted for the model cluster as a key to promoting innovation in the target sector or stimulate new business initiatives and with this vision have created a myriad of clusters in diverse areas of expertise: biotechnology, ICT, health , environment, etc. scattered around geography on the basis of the differential values of each one.

A clear example of cluster is the famous Silicon Valley in California, created in the 90s as a result of a group of technology companies that have attracted investment firms in venture capital and other companies with similar characteristics to a greater or lesser extent, it has created a process of partnerships (cross pollination) that have been able to generate  new business initiatives.

Another close example is the cluster created in the tile industry in the province of Castellón (appointed on several occasions by M. Porter as an example of competitive cluster with Saussuolo Santa Caterina in Italy or Brazil) for the analysis of which I have found a very interesting study published by the Jordan Competitiveness Team

My conclusion by analyzing various scenarios of clusters is:

– They are  static elements capable of growth, of course, but by approximation, that is, entrepreneurs are released to be located in clusters in its sector to “absorb the aroma of innovation environment and even the hope that by serendipity come to generate new business with other entrepreneurs but without a specific driver or director,  without elements “pull-driven” to generate dynamism in the environment.

– They are very vertical. They focus a lot on specific products or services and specific knowledge areas that should be fully aligned with the economic and industrial needs of a region.  As Ketels states: “The necessary condition for any kind of empirical work on clusters is to find a consistent definition of what economic activities belong or should belong to the cluster”.

– The movement that businesses follow when they land in a cluster of its sector is rather “Brownian“, ie without previous planning and spinning around  looking for business opportunities.

Another important aspect that affects Ketels (2003) in his paper “The Development of the cluster concept – present experiences and Further Developments” is to resolve the issue of efficiency and effectiveness in creating a cluster, ie whether the money spent to create an economic value greater than its opportunity cost and, of course, if the cluster is sustainable once the initial support has been consumed. And so it seems, it is found that the creation of a cluster is long term and the cost may be higher.

So far I have not said anything new, anything that has not already know, although, of course, can agree or disagree with my interpretation.

Also by serendipity, we met a very special person, Prof G. Mensch with a very unique idea  also which we are working hard with. Prof. Mensch put forward a new concept: “The Convoy Model.”

The Convoy Model revolves around one key element: the element tractor. We are not talking about specific sectors but that the whole weight of the traction element rests on a single director, the “locomotive” of the convoy of cars. This element is dynamic model tractor compared to the static cluster model, but not unpredictable but planned. Never stops and creates an aura of attraction around which facilitates the approximation of companies / initiatives that will improve the process of creating value and synergy between them always based on a set of objectives.

The “Convoy Model” project management requires a totally different perspective from the classic, here the projects are not implemented to be able to meet the initial requirements of the user but on the contrary, projects must be capable of adapting to the requirements changes creating new products which in turn modify the changes. This requires great flexibility. It is the philosophy of the HIST projects (High Impact, Short Time)that continually get feedback of their own performance to become better.

It is interesting how it is possible to find synergies between the definition of “Convoy Model” from a business perspective, the same model from an educational perspective and social networking. In her  book “Social Relations in Childhood and Adolescence: The Convoy Model Perspective“, Mary J. Levitt referred to the term convoy, rather than network, such as the entity that captures both the protective function as the dynamic nature of social networks as the individual moves together throughout their lives.

This is considered the Convoy Model as a set of concentric circles, three, representing the degree of closeness and dependence on the elements that move next to the item tractor and has many similarities to that occurs in an individual and his immediate environment .

Can it really be an alternative generating positive impact on the environment versus Cluster model that has been proven as an effective tool to foster the economy of a region? Everything points to it. Let’s keep talking …

About Juan A. Bertolin

I consider myself a “orchestrator” to tackle challenges  putting together the hybridization of independent solutions to achieve a comprehensive and higher value added final solution (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). Since 2006 I started to enjoy supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow, innovate co-opeting, opening spaces for open collaboration and sharing, integrating the customer experience and emotions in co-designing new innovative elements.

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