17 Sep 2014

Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter to Launch New U.S. Cluster Mapping Tool

Michael Porter

BOSTON—A unique new tool based on pathbreaking research led by Michael E. Porter, Harvard’s Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, based at Harvard Business School, has been created to provide detailed data on the presence of “clusters” -- regional concentrations of related industries – and the profiles of regional economies throughout the United States. It also features a unique listing of initiatives, government agencies, and other entities engaged in cluster-based economic development, enabling public officials, policy makers, businesses, and other organizations to gain actionable insights supporting fact-driven policy decisions that can foster regional economic growth and competitiveness.

Professor Porter will formally launch the tool on Monday, September 29, as part of a two-day conference called Mapping the Midwest’s Future, which will be held at and in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis. This event will host participants from 12 Midwest states and 4 Canadian provinces.

Four years in the making, the new tool was developed by the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, with funding from the U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Partners included researchers at MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center, Temple University, and a range of regional partners across the U.S.

“Providing powerful information on economic geography and performance, the site is an essential and so far painfully missing tool for assisting economic development efforts all across America,” Porter said. “It is designed to provide the fundamental data necessary for regions and businesses to understand their competitive position and the drivers of their economic performance, as well as help them facilitate the process of creating a ‘path forward’ for developing local and regional economies.”

The tool is predicated on Porter’s pioneering concept of clusters, from the array of companies that support high technology in Silicon Valley to the myriad firms that make up the financial services clusters in New York City and Boston.

Cluster mapping allows for new perspectives on economies and the competitive landscape at the country, state and local levels. The information in the tool illustrates, for example, that the Midwest, generally regarded as the country’s “breadbasket” due to its abundance of farmland, pastureland, and agricultural operations, is now actually a hotbed of production technology and heavy machinery.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently described the U.S. Department of Commerce as “America’s data agency” and stated that its current and future priority is to unleash data in compelling and intelligible ways that will strengthen and drive economic growth, citing the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project as a prime example.

“In short, the cluster mapping tool gives us the ability to reinvent and modernize economic development strategies -- all driven by open data,” she stated last July at the Esri User Conference in San Diego.

In addition, the tool makes possible the kind of regional and private-sector led efforts that are also at the core of the Harvard Business School U.S. Competitiveness Project (USCP), a multifaceted, multi-faculty, long-term effort codirected by Professor Porter that aims to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States. The U.S. Cluster Mapping Project is part of the USCP’s extensive research agenda in areas such as human capital, innovation, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, company location choices, K-12 education, infrastructure, tax policy, and environmental sustainability.


Christian Camerota

Jim Aisner

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.