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Regular version of the site


HSE Experts Estimated Federal Policy’s Impact on Russian Cluster Initiatives

Evgeny Kutsenko, head of HSE ISSEK Russian Cluster Observatory, presented results of a study of Russian cluster initiatives at the 56th Congress of the European Regional Science Association (ERSA 2016) hosted in August by the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

Detailed results of the study will be published in the Foresight Journal.

Below we present key points of the report “The evolution of cluster initiatives in Russia: the impacts of policy, lifetime, proximity, and innovative environment” by Evgeny Kutsenko, Ekaterina Islankina, and Vasiliy Abashkin.


Cluster: geographically concentrated enterprises, suppliers of equipment, components, specialised production and support services, and R&D and educational organisations functionally interconnected with each other.

Cluster initiative: organised effort by businesses, R&D organisations, and/or public authorities to establish and develop a cluster. If a cluster was emerging for decades due to numerous (and not necessarily coordinated) actions (with an internal logic to them, but without a conscious plan to create a cluster), the cluster initiative requires targeted joint actions aimed at increasing overall competitiveness. Successful implementation of a common strategy and specific cluster initiative projects usually involves establishing a specialised management organisation (such as secretariat or project management office).

Government cluster policy: may be aimed at establishing or promoting development of clusters (particularly common in East and South-East Asia), or supporting cluster initiatives (EU, Russia, Latin America). The second kind usually finds justification in the so-called system or coordination market failures. Such failures are due to the fact that innovation requires coordinated actions (usually connected with investment activities) by numerous players, first of all companies, R&D and educational organisations, and regional and federal authorities. Cluster initiatives is one of the tools employed to achieve such coordination.

Innovative territorial cluster (ITC): a cluster initiative selected for inclusion in the list of pilot innovative territorial clusters maintained by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development to provide support in the form of subsidies from various-level government budgets in 2013—2015.

Non-ITC: a cluster initiative not included in the Russian Ministry of Economic Development’s list of pilot innovative territorial clusters.


Hundreds of cluster initiatives have emerged in Russia in less than ten previous years, some on their own and others as a result of federal government policy. Some of them have already vanished, but most have just got organised, and their future still remains uncertain.

Having collected all data about cluster initiatives since 2008, experts at the Russian Cluster Observatory asked themselves a question: what affects the number and quality of regional cluster initiatives? Would it be correct to say that government efforts lead to emergence of cluster initiatives and their subsequent development? Or are these processes influenced by other factors, such as, e.g., the following:

a) more mature cluster initiatives which have emerged long before the government started to pursue a targeted cluster policy;

b) successful examples of neighbouring regions;

c) accumulated innovation potential of regions which creates favourable conditions for emergence and development of cluster initiatives.

Data sources

The authors of the study used three main databases (DBs):

  • DB of cluster initiatives and specialisation areas (includes 169 entries, created in 2008 based on the data requested by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development from regional administrations);
  • DB of cluster initiatives which have applied for participation in the competitive selection of pilot innovative territorial clusters in 2012 (92 cluster initiatives);
  • DB “Cluster Map of Russia” created and maintained by HSE’s Russian Cluster Observatory (107 cluster initiatives have joined it by the end of 2015)

Assessing cluster initiatives’ quality

Two indicators from the Cluster Map of Russia database were used during the assessment: average number of cluster participants’ employees, and the level of cluster initiatives’ organisational development (answer options: Basic, Medium, High).

To check the study’s underlying hypotheses, the experts selected 27 innovative territorial clusters (ITCs, see Glossary) – winners of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development’s tender. Comparing their quantitative and qualitative characteristics with similar indicator values of other cluster initiatives, or excluding these ITCs from calculations allowed to measure government policy’s impact on cluster initiatives’ development.

Results of the study

Federal policy (in this case programmes to support pilot innovative territorial clusters) has a significant impact on the number and quality of cluster initiatives.The following consequences were observed:

  • The average number of ITC employees, and the share of ITCs with high and medium organisational development level, were 3 and 8 times higher than the relevant figures for non-ITCs, accordingly.
  • New clusters (identified after 2012) emerged in ITCs’ home regions on average twice more often than in Russian regions were no ITCs existed.
  • The share of clusters which took part in the tender, lost, but continued to operate, was 28% (it could be argued that such cluster initiatives were self-sufficient and useful for participating companies even without government subsidies; federal cluster policy prompted their emergence and adequate organisation).

Being located near regions where clusters have already been established affects emergence of new cluster initiatives

  • On average, 4 new cluster initiatives emerged in regions neighbouring with those were more mature clusters operated (i.e. those identified in 2008 and 2012).
  • And vice versa: on average, 0.7 new clusters emerged in regions neighbouring with 7 Russian territories where no cluster initiatives were found in any of the analysed databases.

Cluster initiatives’ maturity doesn’t have a definite effect on their quality. The assumption that more mature clusters are also more strong only holds true for cluster initiatives which received government budget subsidies.

The level of regions’ innovation-based development is closely linked with the number of cluster initiatives. At the same time there was no correlation between their quality and home region.

  • Most of ITCs are located in regions – leaders in terms of innovation-based development (according to the HSE ranking)
  • The number of cluster initiates in regions with the highest values of the Russian Regional Innovation Development Index is on average 7 times higher than in other regions; there are 9 times more ITCs there, and 3 times more non-ITCs.
  • In terms of the average number of employees and organisational development level, cluster initiatives in regions – innovation development leaders (Group I in the ranking), ITCs and non-ITC alike, didn’t very much differ from regions in Groups II and III, but were significantly ahead of clusters in Group IV of the ranking.

Conclusions and recommendations

1. There are sufficient reasons to believe that ITC support programme does promote emergence of new cluster initiatives, thus contributing to overcoming network (coordination, system) market failures.

2. Even given the limited financial resources, cluster policy should remain the focus of the government’s attention. Federal support is not limited to providing funding, but also includes legitimising regional initiatives and policies.

3. The number and quality of cluster initiatives are also affected by the overall level of innovation development in neighbouring regions. Overcoming “systemic” market failures requires appropriate “systemic” government policies. Simplifying the innovation landscape may turn out not to be the best national strategy for supporting regional innovations.

by Evgeny Kutsenko