Resilience of Urban and Regional Economies: The Role of Clusters, Sectoral Composition, and Economic Complexity


Background and Motivation

A seemingly accelerating stream of shocks from the great recession of 2008/2009 to the COVID-19 pandemic has raised urgent questions about the factors that drive the resilience of urban and regional economies, and about policies that can strengthen locations’ ability to deal with shocks. This special issue focuses on the roles of clusters, sectoral composition, and economic complexity in this context.

The academic research as well as the practical and political experience with clusters and cluster-based economic policies over the last three decades has identified the potential for countervailing forces: On the one hand, there is evidence that firms and re- search organisations can gain from being located in a cluster by benefitting from positive externalities and interdependencies through labour mobility, informal networks, buyer-supplier relationships or R&D cooperation. The specifics of sectoral composition, in particular the level of ’complexity’ play a significant role for various measures of economic outcomes. And there are indications that cluster-based policy approaches can enhance economic policy choices and economic outcomes. On the other hand, there is also evidence that closely-knit relationships can suffer from structural or cognitive lock-in. Patterns of sectoral composition that are supporting higher levels of productivity and innovation might not by best suited to also enhance resilience. And cluster-based policies can become captured by entrenched interests and lead to wasteful and distortive market interventions.

Goals and Topics

The issue aims to raise the scholarly understanding of the role that clusters play in the resilience of regional economies. It also aims to develop implications to policy-makers and practitioners in the fields of cluster policy and management, as well as to local and regional economic development professionals more broadly.

We invite contributions that offer new and original research insights into the role of clusters, sectoral composition and economic complexity in regional resilience: How does the presence of clusters, sectoral composition and complexity affect resilience, and what factors might influence this relationship? In what ways can clusters and clus- ter-based economic policies enhance regional resilience? Are established strategic concepts and instruments of cluster-based analysis and policy action still relevant, do they need adaptation, or are completely new ways of thinking required?

Additional topics include:

  • Resilience of spatial concentrations of interrelated firms (clusters) and its determinants;
  • Economic resilience of cities and regions and its determinants, in particular the role of cluster, sectoral composition, and economic complexity;
  • ​​​Role of cluster-based policies and cluster management (organisations) in building resilient regional economies;
  • New/adapted cluster-based policy concepts and instruments to support the resilience of regional economies.


  1. All papers will be subject to double-blind peer review, according to author guidelines available at:
  2. Submissions to Competitiveness Review are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts: (please select the correct special issue from the drop-down menu)

Submission deadline: July 31, 2022

Guest Editors

Matthias Kiese, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Dirk Fornahl, Friedrich-Schil- ler-Universität Jena

Christian Ketels, Harvard Business School


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