09 Dec 2010
Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School to Map Clusters in U.S. Regions
Project based on research by Professor Michael E. Porter
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BOSTON—The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, founded and led by Professor Michael E. Porter, has been selected by the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) to lead the Cluster Mapping Project for the United States. The project aims to provide policymakers and development practitioners across America with rich data and tools for understanding industry clusters in every region of the country, together with tool kits and case studies to assist in formulating economic development strategies. In addition, the project will develop a directory of active cluster initiatives throughout the country.

Professor Michael Porter
Photo: Stuart Cahill

"EDA is pleased to work with leading cluster-development expert Professor Michael Porter and the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness to develop a comprehensive map of our nation's economic regions and help drive sustainable economic job growth," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. "This effort reinforces President Obama's commitment to promote America's clusters and provide business and community leaders with the information they need to capitalize on their region's unique assets."

The cluster concept was developed and spread globally by Porter, Harvard's Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, based at Harvard Business School. Clusters are geographic concentrations of firms, suppliers, support services, specialized infrastructure, producers of related products, and specialized institutions (e.g., training programs and business associations) that arise in particular fields in particular locations. Examples of U.S. clusters include light aircraft production in Wichita, filmed entertainment in Los Angeles, information technology in Silicon Valley, and boat building in Maine. They are a striking feature of all modern economies and important drivers of productivity and innovation. Cluster specialization is observed in the economic profile of every U.S. region.

Using statistical methods, Professor Porter pioneered the comprehensive mapping of clusters in the U.S. economy in the early 2000's. Harvard's Cluster Mapping Project (CMP) was made public in 2003. The methodology and definitions developed at Harvard have already spread to the European Union, Canada, and other countries. This project will build on and improve the data and methods used in the CMP and disseminate them nationally and internationally.

"There is growing statistical evidence that clusters play a fundamental role in regional job growth, wages, patenting, and new company formation," said Professor Porter. "At a time when our nation needs to reinvigorate its competitiveness and lay the foundations for more sustainable growth, cluster development is one of the key policy agendas that we cannot afford to neglect. This project will provide practitioners and policymakers with enhanced data and new tools to mobilize clusters, strengthen regional economic development efforts, and improve federal economic policies and their implementation."

The Institute will collaborate with the Entrepreneurship Center at MIT and the Fox Business School at Temple University on expanding ongoing research on the role of clusters and cluster initiatives in regional prosperity. In addition, economic development organizations in four regions of the U.S. and Monitor Group, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting firm, will work under the Institute's direction to create a national directory of cluster initiatives and play an important role in connecting the project with the needs of governmental and non-governmental users. The regional partners are the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota; the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, John Adams Innovation Institute; the Oregon Business Council; and the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness.

The Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS) at Harvard will also be a key partner, both technologically and administratively. IQSS and its member group, the Center for Geographic Analysis, will provide guidance on data management, geographic analysis, and data visualization. "We are excited to be able to leverage open-source software, developed by IQSS professionals, to meet the needs of Professor Porter's project," said Breean Fortier, Executive Director of IQSS. "This type of cross-school collaboration is the new standard for research at Harvard. We will contribute our data and geographic expertise to Professor Porter's strategic work in regional economic development." IQSS will also serve as the administrative home for this project, providing grant support to Professor Porter's team.

For more information, please contact:
Rich Bryden
Director of Information Products
Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness
rbryden@hbs.edu
(617) 495-6777

About the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (www.isc.hbs.edu):

The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, founded and led by Michael E. Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, studies competition and its implications for company strategy; the competitiveness of nations, regions and cities; and solutions to social problems. The Institute is dedicated to extending the research pioneered by Professor Porter and disseminating it to scholars and practitioners on a global basis. Michael Porter received the first Lifetime Achievement Award in Economic Development from the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2008. The award will be presented only rarely, when a private citizen's body of work and assistance to the federal government has significantly enhanced the nation's approach to economic development.