Jump to main content.


This site contains information that has been considered archived and will no longer be updated. Please click here to go to the CURRENT eda.gov website.

A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Press Release

Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School to Map Clusters in U.S. Regions

Project sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration

The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School has been selected by the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) to lead the Cluster Mapping Project for the United States. The project aims to provide policymakers and development practitioners across America with rich data and tools for understanding industry clusters in every region of the country, together with tool kits and case studies to assist in formulating economic development strategies. In addition, the project will develop a directory of active cluster initiatives throughout the country.

"EDA is pleased to work with leading cluster-development expert Professor Michael E. Porter and the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness to develop a comprehensive map of our nation's economic regions and help drive sustainable economic job growth," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. "This effort reinforces President Obama's commitment to promote America's clusters and provide business and community leaders with the information they need to capitalize on their region's unique assets."

The cluster concept was developed and spread globally by the Institute's founder, Michael E. Porter. Clusters are geographic concentrations of firms, suppliers, support services, specialized infrastructure, producers of related products, and specialized institutions (e.g., training programs and business associations) that arise in particular fields in particular locations. Examples of U.S. clusters include light aircraft production in Wichita, filmed entertainment in Los Angeles, information technology in Silicon Valley, and boat building in Maine. Clusters are a striking feature of all modern economies and important drivers of productivity and innovation. Cluster specialization is observed in the economic profile of every U.S. region.

Professor Porter pioneered the comprehensive mapping of clusters in the U.S. economy using statistical methods in the early 2000's. Harvard's Cluster Mapping Project (CMP) was made public in 2003. The methodology and definitions originated at Harvard have already spread to the European Union, Canada, and other countries. This project will build on and improve the data and methods used in the CMP and disseminate it nationally and internationally.

"There is growing statistical evidence that clusters play a fundamental role in regional job growth, wages, patenting, and new company formation. At a time when our nation needs to reinvigorate its competitiveness and lay the foundations for more sustainable growth, cluster development is one of the key policy agendas that we cannot afford to neglect," said Professor Porter. "This project will provide practitioners and policymakers with enhanced data and new tools to mobilize clusters, strengthen regional economic development efforts, and improve federal economic policies and their implementation."

An important component of the project is to expand research on the role of clusters and cluster initiatives in regional prosperity. This research agenda will both inform the project's design as well as benefit from enhanced cluster mapping data and methods. The Entrepreneurship Center at MIT and the Fox Business School at Temple University are lead partners with the Institute in this effort.

"This is an excellent opportunity to better integrate our growing understanding of clusters with MIT's expertise in building entrepreneurial companies and understanding the ecosystems that support innovation-based entrepreneurship. We believe that an effective policy environment must leverage the strong two-way connection between cluster development and entrepreneurship," said Scott Stern, MIT Sloan School of Management Distinguished Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management. Economic development organizations in four regions of the U.S. will work with Monitor Group, the Cambridge-based consulting firm, to create a national directory of cluster initiatives and better connect the project with the needs of the governmental and non-governmental users. The regional partners are the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota; the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, John Adams Innovation Institute; the Oregon Business Council; and the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. These partners will also lead the development of case studies on the effective use of the cluster concept in public policy and create practical tool kits for cluster-based competitiveness efforts for use by practitioners.

"Since its inception, the Oregon Business Plan has been built around the recognition that clusters are the engines of growth for the Oregon economy. We are pleased to contribute our experience in promoting cluster development and facilitating cross-cluster learning to this project," said Duncan Wyse, President of the Oregon Business Council, a business association that advocates for policies that improve Oregon's quality of life and economy. "The systematic data about the presence of clusters and cluster initiatives across the nation will enable us to move our own efforts to a new level and enable our peers in other regions to adopt a similar approach in their work."

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov): This year, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) marks 45 years of public service, with a mission of leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy.

EDA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that partners with distressed communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and innovation.

The cluster mapping project is part of EDA's Jobs and Innovation Partnership, a long-term prosperity plan to help build an environment where the private sector can flourish and create connections that will bring together vibrant regional economic ecosystems.

About the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (www.isc.hbs.edu): The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, founded and led by Michael E. Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, studies competition and its implications for company strategy; the competitiveness of nations, regions and cities; and solutions to social problems. The Institute is dedicated to extending the research pioneered by Professor Porter and disseminating it to scholars and practitioners on a global basis.

Michael Porter received the first Lifetime Achievement Award in Economic Development from the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2008. The award will be presented only rarely, when a private citizen's body of work and assistance to the federal government has significantly enhanced the nation's approach to economic development.

For more information, please contact:
Rich Bryden
Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness
rbryden@hbs.edu (617)495-6777