The cluster concept was formulated by the American economist Michael Porter:
"Industrial clusters are geographic concentration of competing companies in related sectors tied to each other economically, sharing the same abilities, technology and infrastructure.
In a cluster, large and small enterprises achieve much more than if they were working alone, through a network of connected companies, suppliers, services, higher education institutions and manufacturers located in the same area.
Concentration supports the creation of new businesses, products and new positions for highly skilled, well-paid employees.
Clusters represent the strength of each national, regional, state, and even metropolitan economy, mainly in developed countries."
A characteristic feature of clusters is that the companies concentrated in them compete with each other, but simultaneously they cooperate in those areas where it is possible to release synergy effects of joint actions (e.g. joint research and development works).
Competition does not exclude mutual beneficial interaction with other companies, and may become a driving force of their development.
In English, such a situation is referred to as co-opetition (of cooperation and competition).
Such a situation is possible if the concentration of specific for a given sector resources and competencies reach a critical mass at which the cluster becomes an attractive center and attracts further resources.
In the network of cluster connections beyond firms are also included other institutions and organizations such as research centers, research and development units, or private organizations.
This triggers a considerable innovative potential of such organizational and spatial industry form.
Mutual connections of particular entities are often informal and are partly based on the high staff turnover within the cluster.
Numerous connections between the cluster entities make them follow the same trajectory of development.
The synergistic effect of industrial cluster consists primarily of:
- know-how diffusion and staff turnover within the cluster
- increasing productivity within the cluster by concentrating resources
- openness to innovations and the ability of absorbing them
- attracting resources and new businesses
Synergistic effects are also closely related to public trust or even social capital.
Developed social environment fosters an atmosphere of trust in interpersonal relations, especially in economic aspects.
This reduces the risk significantly, which is important especially for small companies with small capital resources and the weak force pressure on the partners.
Risk reduction helps to facilitate cost of managing it.