Regional Development dans ERIEP


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ERIEP | Number 5 | Cluster policy for innovation and competitiveness

Look before you LEP: English Cluster Policy from RDAs to LEPs

The policy and academic debate on industrial clusters has developed in a context dominated by ‘industry champions’ which are not necessarily national. Despite the fact that industrial districts first emerged and indeed were first studied in England by Alfred Marshall over 100 years ago, the spatial dimension of economic activities has in fact been marginal to much of the economic and policy debate in the UK. The idea that industrial clusters could be engines of regional growth was only seriously taken on board in the late 1990s by the newly created Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in England, and by development agencies in Scotland and Wales. Regional and cluster policies were subsequently used as a key part of UK regions’ economic strategies over the late 1990s and 2000s; despite some successes, question marks now remain over their future in England at least given the abolition of RDAs there from 2012. Favouring a supposedly ‘localist’ rather than regional agenda, the coalition Government elected in 2010 has replaced RDAs with smaller-scale Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) at the sub-regional level. With more limited powers than RDAs and much less funding, time will tell how these LEPs will perform in economic development terms generally and in terms of cluster policies specifically.

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