The cluster topic is characterized by a specific terminology of numerous notions. While some terms are used as synonyms, different attempts of explanation have been made for others. In order to ensure a common understanding, a selection of cluster-related terms has been defined in the following.


Cluster means an "innovative industrial cluster" within a limitedgeographic region. It is the targeted collaboration ofcompanies - that may even be competitors - and other partnersfrom research, science and other organizations within aneconomic area for a higher overall benefit. This collaborationmay develop in diverse ways. Therefore, during the lifetimeof a cluster, research-driven topics may dominate at certaintimes and purely economic topics such as marketing may bethe focus at others.
Including but not limited to, essential qualifying criteria forregional clusters may be:

  • Topical market-related proximity (horizontal: same products,services; vertical: same value chain or stagesthereof)
  • Geographic or areal proximity (fast accessibility, easycoordination)
  • Adequate number and density of companies (criticalmass)
  • Sales potential for products or services must exist at nationallevel at least, which means a high export capabilityfrom the regional point of view

These central elements allow a corporate cluster culturethat creates connections in the area. The combination ofcontent-related and areal proximity among the various stakeholdersalong the value chain provides an opportunityto implement innovative processes. Criteria are thereforethe areal proximity of companies and institutions of appliedresearch, universities, universities of applied sciences ortransfer institutions. These are of immediate importancefor the innovative development of products and thus forthe adding of value within the cluster. Indirectly, they alsoprovide for the necessary supply of talents.

It should not be forgotten that in the past, regional economicclusters have often evolved without the involvement of scientificinstitutions such as universities, research or transferinstitutions. In many cases, it is the customers, product andapplication experiences and the resulting ideas for optimizationthat represent key sources of innovative product andprocess solutions.

Cluster initiative

Cluster initiative means the strategic and systematic alignmentand documentation of innovation-oriented relationshipsthat have their origins in the networks (marketing),the targeted closing of gaps, for example, with regard tospecific competencies or in the value chain, and the structuringof activities, for example, by integrating them intoorganizations. Often such cluster initiatives are part of theregional structural or innovation policy, as elements of businessdevelopment or technology transfer programmes, orare even established in such a context. An important criterionis that the cluster participants recognize and intendto achieve a stronger individual and overall benefit throughtheir common goal of a systematic and organizational collaborationwithin the cluster, one that cannot be achievedon their own. In contrast to supra-regional and state-widenetworks or loose forms of cooperation, cluster initiativesare characterized by the fact that they are regional and thatthey systematically activate innovative cooperation potentialto generate synergies and growth.

Based on these definitions, pure competence, marketingand innovation networks or technology centres and othernetworks without an innovative cluster-relevance, for example,tourism organizations, have not been included. Tourismrelatedinitiatives have been included to such an extent onlywhen they relate to or support health services.

State-wide and cross-regional networks or platforms

State-wide networks and also innovation platforms takeresponsibility for the state-wide coordination and moderationof the relevant regional clusters or cluster initiatives,together with other partners such as location agencies, exhibitioncorporations or transfer institutions, to strengthenthe synergies. It is their responsibility to concentrate existingnetworks and regional cluster initiatives with regardto their effects on the value chain and the improvement ofcompetencies, for better adjustment and more effectivecoordination and cooperation at state level.