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«CESIS Electronic Working Paper Series Paper No. 235 Clusters, Networks and Creativity Charlie Karlsson October 2010 The Royal Institute of technology ...»

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CESIS Electronic Working Paper Series

Paper No. 235

Clusters, Networks and Creativity

Charlie Karlsson

October 2010

The Royal Institute of technology

Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies (CESIS)



Clusters, Networks and Creativity

Charlie Karlsson


An extensive amount of studies have been devoted to the importance of the creative process.

Creativity is critical to research and in particular to innovation, a key feature of economic competitiveness. Most of the previous studies have dealt with the creativity of individuals, the creativity of teams and the importance of the organisational context. This chapter, however, emphasises the role of the characteristics of the local and regional economic milieu where the creative process takes place and the local and non-local networks of such milieus.

Both the local „buzz‟ related to interaction and learning opportunities, and non-local networks associated with integration of different milieus, offer special but different advantages for creative activities. The milieu will play an important role in creativity by supplying both a large number of incompatible ideas and good conditions for bringing them together in order to gain new, profound insights. Local accessibility, i.e. clustering, of incompatible ideas and the interregional accessibility to incompatible ideas in other regions are a function of the network characteristics of the local milieu. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the spatial concentration of creativity and the role of clustering and networks in stimulating creative regional economic milieus. One of the arguments of the chapter highlights how clustering of creative agents and creative processes in specific locations generates creative advantages that stimulate creativity and the in-migration of creative agents. Furthermore, the chapter stresses the idea that a better connected economic milieu to other economic milieus via networks transmitting new ideas, information knowledge, etc., will generate higher creative potential of that economic milieu.

Keywords: creativity, creative process, clusters, artistic clusters, network theory, regional economics, local milieu, local and non-local interaction, innovation


O31 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives R11 - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, and Changes 3

1. Introduction We, in particular in the last decade, have seen a rapidlyincreasing interest in creativity among researchers. A search using Google Scholar for the concept creativity for 1990 generates about 20,000 hits, while a similar search for 2008 generates more than three times as many hits. For the area of Business Administration, Finance and Economics the number of hits increases about four times during the same period. There are strong reasons to assume that the publications on the emergence, importance and behaviour of the creative class by Richard Florida have substantially contributed to this increased interest.1 However, it is important to remember that creativity has always been an important human activity in all fields of human activity stretching from the generation of new knowledge, new inventions, innovations, new enterprises to the generation of new artistic expressions Today, creativity is more than ever before looked upon as a crucial resource not only for the cultural sector, but also for contemporary economic development and indeed, personal growth (O‟Connor, 2007). Hence, creativity does not only reside in the arts, the cultural industries and/or the media industries, but it has become a central and increasingly important input into all sectors where design and content form the basis for competitive advantage (Flew, 2002). Creativity is critical for research. The production of new knowledge implies that creative processes must take place somewhere in the research process. In particular, creativity is related to innovation, which increasingly is seen as the key to economic competitiveness. Researchers try to isolate the qualities that give rise to new thinking and new visions upon which innovation can build (Negus & Pickering, 2004). What creativity is supposed to contribute to innovation is an artistic quality, something deemed to be intuitive rather than calculative (Banaji, Burn & Buckingham, 2007). Thus, creativity has emerged in recent decades as a prime contemporary value and not least as a resource that has to be mobilised by the business community (Leadbeater, 1999; Rifkin, 2000; Howkins, 2001; Tepper, 2002). However, creativity has also come into focus in recent decades as a new role has been identified for the arts and the cultural industries as generators of economic values and as important to quality of life, the „image‟ of cities and regions, tourism and ancillary service industries (Myerscough, 1988; Gibson, 1999, Throsby, 2000; Andersson & Andersson, 2006).

Koestler (1964) and Simon (1985) have stressed that exceptional creativity calls for an ability to bring together habitually incompatible ideas and combine them in a way that gives deep new insights. Törnqvist (1983), on the other hand, has considered the influence of place or context, i.e. milieu, on the individual act of creating something new. Törnqvist‟s perspective is important since creativity as well as innovation is a localised process (Karlsson & Johansson, 2006). Bringing these two perspectives together implies that the milieu shall play an important role in creativity by supplying both a large number of incompatible ideas and good conditions for bringing them together. The supply of incompatible ideas is among other things a function of the local accessibility, i.e., the clustering, of incompatible ideas, and the interregional accessibility to incompatible ideas in other regions, which both are a function of the network characteristics of the local milieu.

There is a long research tradition in regional economics and economic geography dealing with clustering going back to the nineteenth century and associated with names such as von 1 According to Florida‟s ideas, the agglomeration of „creative professions‟, i.e. the „creative class‟, is driven by the quality of life, tolerance and creative feel of cities (Florida, 2002). However, even if his book is rich in terms of data, he does not present any hard econometric data to support his theories (cf. Peck, 2005; Montgomery, 2005).

4 Thünen, Marshall, Weber, Ohlin, Hoover, Cristaller, Palander, Lösch, Isard and Beckmann (Karlsson, 2008 a). Despite substantial research on clusters, there is still much confusion concerning the proper conceptualisation of a cluster, except that is generally conceived as a nonrandom spatial concentration of (economic) activities (Ellison & Glaeser, 1997). Typically, most of research on clusters has focused on industrial clusters and less interest has been paid to other types of clusters. However, whatever the type of cluster, we may in line with Krugman (1991 a) assume that the phenomena of clustering are evidence of the pervasive influence of one or several types of increasing returns. Typical of clusters is the existence of one or several forms of direct and/or indirect interaction between the agents in the cluster location. Increasing returns are obtained when such interaction generates positive externalities for the agents in the cluster. Also agents engaged in creative activities show clear tendencies to cluster. Thus, it is relevant to ask what types of positive externalities they get from clustering.

Concerning the network characteristics of a locality, we make a simple distinction between local and non-local networks. Here we focus on networks between agents. We define a network as consisting of economic agents connected by links, which together constitute the structure defining a specific network (Karlsson, Johansson & Stough, 2005). When all the agents in a network are located in the same locality, we talk about a local network and when at least one agent is located in another locality, we talk about a non-local network. Networks and network relations have five important characteristics (cf. Cappelin, 2003): i) networks can be open or closed, ii) the relationship (link) between two agents is characterised by a precise direction, which identifies either a mutual relationship or a relationship of control or dependence of an agent with respect to another agent, iii) each agent has a specific function, which depends not only on its relationship with other agents, but also on its position in the overall network, iv) each network is normally linked to other networks, so that many networks are interconnected with each other, and v) the relations existing in at a given moment in a specific network are normally affected by the relations that existed in the same network in previous periods, due among other things to the existence of cumulative learning (Nelson & Winter, 1982) and of general path dependence. To the extent that creativity depends upon the interaction opportunities of agents, the network characteristics of localities and regions might have a decisive impact on creative performance as well as the direction of the creative efforts. There are also strong indications not least in science that interaction opportunities are important for creativity. For example, Laudel (2001, 763) remarks that “One of the most important changes scientific research has undergone in the 20th century is the change from being something undertaken by single individuals into being a chiefly collective enterprise.” The reason behind this is on the one hand the increasing complexity of many research problems and on the other hand the intense and rapid dynamics of many research fields which require scientists to specialise, to take advantage of the division of labour and to collaborate.

The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the role of networks and place and the characteristics of creative regional economic milieus.

2. Creativity a fuzzy concept

–  –  –

sights, and competence, i.e. the ability to use knowledge for one or several purposes, to create something new, which implies that change is at the centre of creativity.2 However, it is beyond the scope of this paper to try to come up with some unifying and definite definition of the concept. Instead, we here use the rather clear definition suggested by Boden (2004, 1).

She defines creativity as “the ability to come up with ideas that are new, surprising, and valuable”3, stressing a general ability that is not limited to the creation of cultural artefacts and expressions. Thus, creativity can be interpreted as the ability of individuals or groups of individuals to generate ideas, which are perceived by relevant specialists to be new and at least potentially useful for other creators, consumers and/or producers. The creative process is both a mental and a social process involving discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts, i.e. novelty by combination (Schumpeter, 1934).

Thus, the creative ability of individuals and groups depends upon their absorptive capabilities, i.e. on their ability to find, evaluate and use information, ideas and concepts (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990).

Any discussion of creativity presupposes some degree of understanding of the creative processes at the micro level, i.e. within individuals or small teams of individuals working together. Unfortunately, the knowledge about creative processes at the micro level is rather limited. The human brain has, however, certain abilities, which are interesting (Andersson, 1985a). They include the ability to  Use heuristic reasoning, i.e. to associate ideas, to formulate problems, to be perceptive, to discover, etc.

 Remember important facts and theories  Detect deep structures in a system of overlaid and interdependent structures  Detect and use ambiguity and manifoldness, i.e. to deal with seriously non-linear psychological processes  Appreciate paradoxes and surprises  Use and react upon experienced disequilibria  Use fundamental uncertainties and structural instabilities.

According to some specialists, creativity consists of three components – domain-relevant skills, creative processes, and intrinsic task motivation – components, which all can be developed through informal and formal learning (Simonton, 2000; Robinson, 2000; Sternberg, 2007). There seems also to be some sort of consensus around the opinion that creativity is both a way of thinking “associated with intuition, inspiration, imagination, ingenuity and insight” and “novel and appropriate response to an open-ended task” (Byron, 2007).

It is possible to make a distinction between different types of creativity (cf., Florida, 2002):

(i) scientific creativity, (ii) technological or innovative creativity, (iii) economic or entrepreAmabile (1996) defines creativity as the development of new ideas that are potentially useful. i.e., that can be embodied in products, practices, services or procedures. It is important to observe here that creativity also develops ideas such as nuclear bombs and cluster bombs!

3 This definition can be compared with the following earlier definitions: “the process of bringing something new into birth” (May, 1959), “in business, originality isn‟t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate – useful and actionable.” (Amabile, 1998), “is the ability to produce work that is both novel … and appropriate” (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999), “a purposeful activity (or set of activities) that produces valuable products, services, processes, or ideas that are better or new” (DeGraff & Lawrence, 2002), and “the ability to understand, develop and express in a systematic fashion, novel orderly relationships” (Heilman, Nadeau & Beversdorf, 2003).

6 neurial creativity4, and (iv) artistic or cultural creativity. These different types of creativity are probably to a certain extent mutually dependent in the sense that they may stimulate and reinforce each other when located at the same urban region. However, it is well known that artists, such as painters, may develop a high level of creativity when forming artistic colonies also in peripheral rural regions.

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