What is the Cluster Observatory?


Historical Background

The concept of clusters originates with Harvard Professor Michael Porter, who also has been the driving force behind our cluster mapping methodology. In 2000, Professor Porter had worked out his model which could statistically define and describe clusters across the U.S. economy. The mapping consisted of two fundamental parts:

•  Development of cluster codes which can identify and measure industrial agglomeration
within regions;
•  Development of performance measures which can measure the size, specialization, competitiveness and dynamism of clusters.

A set of 41 so called “traded cluster” codes were decided on, accounting for roughly one third of the total U.S. employment.

In 2003, the U.S. model was brought to Europe by Professor Örjan Sölvell, Dr Christian Ketels, and Dr Göran Lindqvist in Stockholm. A first mapping exercise was done for Sweden and a statistical concordance table was developed in order allow the use U.S. codes on European data. By using U.S. codes the Stockholm team could benchmark European performance with the U.S.

In 2004, Ivory Tower, led by Dr Sölvell in Stockholm, was asked as a subcontractor (Europe INNOVA under FP 6) to map all clusters of the accession EU‐10 countries. The project was led by Mr. Antoni Subira of Spain (Chair of the Expert Group), and Reinhard Buscher and Nikos Pantalos from the Commission. The EU‐10 cluster mapping data were published in the first Europe INNOVA paper. The paper added an innovation to cluster mapping: the measurement of cluster concentration and specialization by the use of three distinct indexes: cluster size, specialization and regional labor market focus. A few clusters scored on all three measures and those clusters were designated as “three star clusters”. The star methodology was a sound way of describing degree of cluster agglomeration, and was easily understood by non-experts.

In 2006, a grant for a cluster mapping exercise was awarded by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry to a consortium coordinated by Professor Sölvell at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness (CSC) at the Stockholm School of Economics. It covered for the first all of EU-27 countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Israel. The cluster mapping part of the project was later renamed “The European Cluster Observatory” and the web site was launched in July 2007. In addition to cluster mapping data the web site also offered data on cluster organizations and cluster-related reports.

In 2009, a second grant was awarded by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry for an update of the cluster mapping data.

In 2012 the Cluster Observatory, was separated from the European Cluster Observatory (hosted at  DG Enterprise and Industry), and is now run privately by CSC in Stockholm.

The Cluster Observatory

The Cluster Observatory is an online, free and user-friendly platform that provides a single access point to data and analysis of clusters, cluster organizations and regional microeconomic framework conditions in Europe. Furthermore it provides a cluster library, and a classroom for cluster education.

The Cluster Observatory also produces reports on clusters and regional competitiveness conditions. Its staff also offers cluster benchmarking, cluster program evaluation and coaching of cluster organization management on a fee basis. The Observatory is aimed at three main target groups:

•    Researchers (database)
•    Policy makers and public staff (reports and analysis, program evaluation)
•    Cluster organizations (cluster evaluation, benchmarking and coaching)

The Cluster Observatory offers a mobile app. The mobile app is available for free for both iPhone and Android. Search: “Cluster Observatory”.


For more information about the Observatory please contact: Center for Strategy and Competitiveness