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53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
Further to being the country's most important port, Piraeus has been a traditional centre attracting organisations related either directly or indirectly with port or shipping activities. The geographical concentration of enterprises in the wider Piraeus area is attributed not just to port operations, but also to a wide complex of companies and institution engaged in ocean going shipping. Shipping and port related activities constitute a fundamental pillar of the tormented Greek Economy. However, the full developmental potential of the industry has yet to be fully exploited and maximize its impact on the development of the country. Regional development literature has already indicated the benefits deriving from companies' adjacency and agglomeration economies. These benefits are maximized when companies are organized in the form of business clusters. Cluster structuring and governing business as a theory contrasts classical theories on regional development, focusing at increasing productivity, innovation and new company development and has been in the centre of attention of current economic and development policies. Nevertheless, clusters do not appear automatically. Therefore this paper investigates the existence of the necessary preconditions to formulate a competitive port - maritime business cluster in the wider Piraeus area. Based on a thorough review of cluster theory, the basic characteristics of business clusters were identified, followed by an analysis of the main elements of geographical concentration and economic specialisation of Piraeus. Responses in the issues under investigation were collected through an extensive set of structured interviews with leading shipping and port related businesses representatives, sectoral and institutional representative bodies. The evidence collected reveal that necessary preconditions for a successful cluster formulation in Piraeus are being met despite the inexistence of a formally recognized cluster. However, since business clusters need to be institutionalized and organized, the research concludes with proposals regarding the Piraeus cluster structure and governance. The main principle is the pursue of increased competitiveness, not only for independent business units - potential cluster members, but an integrated increase in the competitiveness of the overall cluster, aiming at ameliorating innovation, extroversion, employment and finally regional development.
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