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Comparison Between Belgium and Austria in Terms of Cluster Policies

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During the 1990s, most European countries have increased their interest in the direction of industrial districts, clusters and local production systems as an integral part of their industrial policy

At the same time, there have been significant changes in the consideration of industrial policy in Europe.

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The cluster approach in Upper Austria is a good example of the use of qualitative techniques to identify clusters and define policy support. W. Winetzhammer was responsible for economic affairs at state level and launched the cluster policy in Upper Austria during the mid 90s. To implement cluster policy “the strong sectors / industries represented in the State (in terms of export, job market, R&D) were identified (not necessarily those where Upper Austria was strongest, but those with the highest potential)

This (pre-)selection process was based on intensive interaction with stakeholders, not on an academic study. The first chosen candidates comprised e.g. automotive, polymers and furniture / wood.” W. Pamminger, CEO of Clusterland Upper Austria describes the process of implementing cluster policy as follows: “In Upper Austria we reduced all cluster mapping activities to a minimum. We asked key players in the region and saved the cost of a consulting company. In my opinion the mapping issue is generally overestimated. Cluster mapping is simply a new business model.

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The Belgian government has worked to systematically reduce the taxes and any trade barriers that could affect the import of raw goods. As noted in our country analysis, Belgium has spent heavily on the Port of Antwerp and its logistics to help the country act as a central distributor of Industrial chocolate. Having the central distribution and centralized production of the key intermediate products has led to a mutually enforcing model. (Natalia Drozdiak, 2015) This strategic restructuring of many Belgian chocolate companies has led to significant improvements in ownership and management and has created the conditions for the international expansion that has been a part of the last two decades. What is particularly interesting when analyzing the cluster map of such an old cluster is how well developed each of the participants are in the cluster. The cluster has managed to survive many of its growing pains and now has a network that not only supports the largest players, but also re-­‐‑enforces the smaller players

(Michael Porter, 2008).

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Summing up, implementing and operationalizing clusters in apractical approach, however, is a complex task which actually requires to reflect on variousissues, such as conceptual foundations, spatial scale, main objectives and institutional form ofsupport, before respective measures get initiated.

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Michael Porter, On Competition (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2008), 171.

Natalia Drozdiak, Belgium to Try to Ease Employment Costs, Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2015

Bruce Barnard, ‘Antwerp Container Volume Growth Double Rotterdam’, Flanders New, ‘Possible 3.7 Billion Investment in Port of Antwerp’,

Oxfam_Wereldwinkels, “The Belgium Chocolate Sector: Role and Importance of Belgium in the Cocoa and Chocolate Chain,” November 2010.

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