The anchor tenant and the regional innovation systems

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Niosi, Jorge E.
Zhegu, Majlinda
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High technology clusters research has been on the spotlight for more than a decade and considerable knowledge has been accumulated on the structure and behaviour of such regions. Yet, several factors have hindered researchers’ efforts to depict the finest recipes for reproducing the best results of some clusters in other regions. On one hand, the theoretical debate on industrial clusters tried mainly to seize and explain firms and industry agglomeration advantages based on the geographical proximity with other organisational or institutional actors. The lack of consensus on the nature and effects of spillovers generated inside a cluster has, for a long time, monopolized the attention of scholars. Hence, little attention has been invested on the understanding of the stages and mechanisms which underline a cluster development (yet, see Niosi and Banik, 2005; Braunenjelm and Feldman, 2006). On the other hand, empirical research often consisted of snapshots of the most successful clusters. Several scholars have pointed out the lack of a dynamic perspective in the studies on clusters. In order to overcome the limitations associated to the largely adopted static view, many authors claim that it is necessary to reorient the research and focus on the study of the creation and evolution of technological clusters (Barthlet and al, 2004; Braunenjelm and Feldman, 2006). Furthermore, by focusing predominantly on the cases of successful clusters, there is little understanding on the issues regarding those clusters that failed or were unsuccessful (Doloreux and Bitard, 2005). We designed this research by trying to avoid some of these common pitfalls. The paper revisits the anchor tenant concept, which is considered as one of the central elements involved in cluster formation and growth. The ad hoc definitions, the somewhat informal or static analysis and the variety of contexts in which the concept of anchor tenant has been applied in the clusters literature have lead to a certain degree of vagueness and confusion about the following questions: 1) What is an anchor tenant? 2) Who may be an Anchor tenant? 3) What is the role of an anchor tenant in the formation and growth of the cluster? 4) What happens to the cluster when its anchor tenant leaves/fails to generate the expected cluster externalities? How does the number of Anchor tenants in a cluster affect its viability? The purpose of this paper is to shed some light on these questions. The research is based on a longitudinal study of the aircraft industry and embraces an evolutionary perspective on clusters formation and growth processes. The first section focuses on the definition and the role of anchor tenant and on the theoretical debate about its role as a generator of technological spillovers. The following section describes the methodological issues and assesses the results of our empirical research on the anchor tenant in aerospace clusters. The third section makes concluding remarks and states the main implication of the study in terms of public policies which purpose is the formation of new clusters or the upgrading of the existing ones.
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