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[Journal:] REGION [ISSN:] 2409-5370 [Volume:] 4 [Year:] 2017 [Issue:] 3 [Pages:] 39-63
Regional development policy aims to cope with the challenge of spatial disparities. It is based on a smart combination of various critical capital assets in a region which functionally and spatially interact and which yield synergetic economic opportunities and promising challenges for innovation and progress. The present study regards sustainable territorial performance - as a manifestation of regional development - as the overarching principle for competitive advantages and economic growth in a system of regions, which is particularly induced by territorial capital, comprising human capital, infrastructural capital and social capital. In the long-standing tradition of regional development policy a wide variety of effective facilitators or drivers of accelerated spatial growth has been distinguished, for instance, industrial districts, growth poles, growth centers, industrial complexes, special economic zones, communication axes, and so forth. In the past decades, a new concept has been introduced, viz. economic-technological clusters. An avalanche of literature has been published on the conceptual, operational and policy foundation and relevance of this concept, especially in relation to previously developed regional growth concepts. In this paper, clusters will be regarded as the spatial foci of sustainable territorial performance strategies and synergetic actions by both public and private actors. The present paper aims to address the relevance of cluster concepts for an effective regional development policy, based on the above notion of territorial capital. It does so by introducing a new concept, viz. effective cluster, in which spatial-economic synergy, local/regional concentration of industry, and the supporting role of territorial capital are regarded as the main determinants of a highly performing cluster in a given territory. The effective cluster concept will be tested on the basis of a field study on the aviation and aerospace cluster 'Dolina Lotnicza' in the Podkarpackie region in South-East Poland. This is one of the most vibrant high-tech clusters in the country. A new approach based on a triple-layer architecture will be adopted here, viz.: a quantitative comparative analysis of the 16 Polish 'voivodships' (main administrative regions in the country, at a NUTS-2 level), a benchmark analysis of the 25 counties ('powiats') within the Podkarpackie voivodship (at a NUTS-4 level), and an effective industrial cluster analysis on the basis of the individual aviation firms located in the Podkarpackie region. In each step an extended Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), characterised by a merger of a Slack-Based Measure (SMB) and a super-efficiency (SE) DEA, will be used in order to achieve an unambiguous ranking of the various regions or Decision Making Units (DMUs). The study will employ an extensive database on individual actors in the cluster, in combination with a broadly composed territorial-capital database for the areas under study. The paper will be concluded with some strategic policy lessons.
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