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Australian Cluster Observatory

Australia is at a crossroads with respect to how our business sector will compete on the global stage. It is not enough to have smart businesses. Increasingly we need smart industries, smart regions and smart cities working along and across supply chains to create higher value goods and services.

Industrial clusters are and will continue to be important drivers of globally competitive industries in Australia. The Australian Cluster Observatory serves to resolve a lack of local information about clustering activity and the specific factors that make for clustering success in Australia.

The Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) at the University of Adelaide, has developed the Australian Cluster Observatory with the support of the South Australian Department of State Development in response to the Manufacturing Works strategy that claims clusters as a 'priority strategy pillars’.

The Australian Cluster Observatory is a web-based portal modelled on European and USA initiatives that aims to provide business executives, regional and industry development agencies a means to examine the level of industry concentration that occurs within specific regional area boundaries.

This ‘mapping’ of industry, helps to identify innovative business clusters and locate areas of related business strengths.

The Australian Cluster Observatory portal can be directly accessed here.

  • What are Clusters?

    Clusters are collaborative networks linking SMEs, large business, academic and non-academic research, finance, government and support industries, located within geographical proximity, i.e. a region. These cross-disciplinary groups drive competiveness based on innovation and specialisation, finding long-term success through the ongoing commercialisation of intellectual capital. To quote cluster expert Professor Michael Porter “Clusters are geographical concentrations of interconnected companies, specialised suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries, and associated institutions … in particular fields that compete but also cooperate” .

    Professor Porter has demonstrated that clusters are associated with:

      • Higher employment growth, for the clusters and the region within which the cluster resides.
      • An increase in the number of businesses.
      • An increase in the number of patents.
      • An increase in innovation and entrepreneurship

    The OECD’s 2012/13 Cluster Scoreboard suggests:

      • That clusters experience an average of 46.7% job growth, reducing to 15.7% job growth during recession
      • That clusters experience an average of 24.4% turn over growth, reducing to 12.8% turn over growth during recession.
  • What the Australian Cluster Observatory provides

    The Australian Cluster Observatory provides access to information sorted into relevant categories in terms of industry and region not available in other platforms. Over 500 industries are represented in 49 cluster categories across 88 regions across Australia.

    This information provides insight into industry specialisation as it may exist or be emerging in particular places viewed through its mapping tool of Australia and its regions.

    In addition, users can register to list their own organisation, list events, access cluster research resources from the library and search for other organisations active in cluster development.

  • Who we support

    Government and regional development agencies, cluster management organisations, academics and researchers, students, and business leaders all can benefit from the Australian Cluster Observatory.

  • Our Impact

    The Australian Cluster Observatory is a vital part of our research impact that falls under the Strategic Innovation of Place research agenda. The following outlines some recent activities and engagement with industry on this topic area.

      • The Australian Cluster Observatory (ACO) Launch took place in one of South Australia’s and indeed Australia’s leading examples of an industry cluster, the Barossa Valley. The ACO was launched by Minister Susan Close with guest presentations by Anne Moroney CEO of Regional Development Australia, Dr Göran Lindqvist, Director of Research at Stockholm School of Economics, Tim Mares, Director, Policy and Economics at the Department of State Development and Professor Christopher Findlay, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Professions, University of Adelaide.
      • Experts in series on Clusters, Competitiveness and Co-operative Advantage;Tuesday 16th December, 2015. Dr Goran Lindqvist, Director of Research at the Stockholm School of Economics and visiting researcher at Harvard, presented this lecture on his extensive research on clusters, cluster metrics and cluster organisations that have led to co-authorship of the Cluster Initiative Greenbook. Click here for the presentation.
      • The Competitiveness Institute (TCI) Oceania Chapter, Australasian Cluster Conference and Workshops, 16-17 April, 2015, Sydney Australia. Cluster Management: Cluster Observatory Team, Dr Allan O'Connor. In this presentation Dr O’Connor introduced the Australian Cluster Observatory and its capacity to provide localised and relevant information for Australian clustering. Click here for the presentation.
      • The Competitiveness Institute (TCI), 18th TCI Global Conference, 3-6 November, Daegu, Korea. Industry Clusters and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Competing Agendas or Synchronised Policy? Dr Allan O’Connor and Rowena Vnuk. This presentation outlined the specific attributes of clusters and entrepreneurial ecosystems to identify the interlinkages and discreet focus of each as policy instruments. Click here for the presentation.

    The ECIC research team are also active participants in regional development becoming involved as advisors, educators and advocates for the various approaches designed to enhance a places’ competitiveness. Contact us if we can assist you with your regional development agenda.

    By way of impact in June 2016 the ECIC will also host the TCI Oceania Conference and the Strategic Innovation of Place Research Symposium.

  • Our current research projects

    Research for the Australian Cluster Observatory falls under the Strategic Innovation of Place (SIP) research agenda. Clusters form part of the innovation and entrepreneurship socioeconomic development of places that include nations, states, cities and regions. Under this research agenda the ECIC research team is interested in the competitiveness of place and how places can innovate to develop, promote and grow economic strength and social inclusiveness.

    The following works are in progress and will be disseminated through various meetings, conferences and publication outlets.

      • How do specialist cluster organisations enable competitive advantage for multiple clustering firms? A case study of three South Australian cluster organisations, Rowena Vnuk.
      • Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Moving towards a Measurement System, Sul Kassicieh, Allan O’Connor, Sabine Menu and Takao Ito
      • How do entrepreneurs relate to their ecosystem? A resource based view of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, Allan O’Connor and Gerard Reed.
      • Entrepreneurship and Cross-Country Economic Efficiency Catch-Up, Kai Du and Allan O'Connor.
      • Industry Clusters and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Competing Agendas or Synchronised Policy? Allan O’Connor and Rowena Vnuk
  • The overseas experience

    In 2007, the European Cluster Observatory was launched, offering data on regional cluster activity and cluster mapping data on more than 600 industries in over 400 regions.

    The Australian Cluster Observatory is modelled in the European observatory and the Australian observatory team has an ongoing collaborative relationship with the research team at the Stockholm School of Economics who are specialist researchers on industrial clusters and managers of the European Cluster Observatory.

    In 2013 the U.S. Department of Commerce, in collaboration with Harvard Business School, launched a U.S. web-based mapping tool, also including both clusters and cluster organizations. At present there are also Cluster Observatory related activities in Japan, India, USA and Canada. The Australian team have no current relationships with these organisations, although memberships with TCI and the Harvard Microeconomics of Competitiveness network links us to many international organisations.

  • Contact

    For further information please contact: Dr Allan O’Connor, Academic Director for Postgraduate studies in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC)

Faculty of the Professions


Level 5, 10 Pulteney Street
Adelaide  SA  5005


Telephone: +61 8 8313 7422
or: 1300 660 543
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