Aerospace Clusters II: The Role of Stakeholders in Building and Growing Sustainable Aerospace Clusters
In the last blog on clusters, we talked about the evolution of clusters and the benefits clusters can provide to a community and its many stakeholders. In this blog, the focus is on the leadership role of stakeholders in creating or growing sustainable aerospace clusters. For the purpose of this discussion, stakeholders include federal, state, and local government agencies; primes, OEMs, suppliers, and service providers; high schools, universities and other organizations as necessary.
To be sure, building clusters is often a long evolutionary process – but it is also a process that can be accelerated by taking advantage of lessons learned and leveraging the knowledge, skills and capabilities of those who share the vision for building a cluster in their community or region.
What Governments Can Do
As Porter stated over a decade ago, clusters represent a new way of thinking for companies, governments, and other institutions striving to become more competitive. With this in mind, the following suggestions are offered for what key stakeholders can do to encourage the development of clusters in their city or region. Many of these comments are based on Porter’s work on regional clusters of innovation, that have been streamlined and modified for the purpose of this blog.
At the federal level:
• Provide funds for state and regional economic development strategies that encourage innovation and the creation of clusters in aerospace manufacturing.
• Support initiatives that strengthen the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in our high schools, colleges, and universities.
• Provide incentives that encourage investments in research and development, industry-university collaboration, and the commercialization of research projects in the aerospace industry.
At the state level:
• Provide incentives for the creation and operation of aerospace research and business incubators.
• Sponsor programs that encourage the development of aerospace clusters in and between cities and across regions.
• Encourage collaboration and the sharing of information between firms, universities, and government agencies involved in aerospace manufacturing.
At the local level:
• Conduct local and regional benchmarking activities.
• Develop a local or regional vision and strategy that involves all stakeholders.
• Create the infrastructure and processes that will enable collaboration and innovation while encouraging city, university, and business leaders to steadfastly work towards a common aerospace vision.
What Firms Can Do
• Remember that location does matter and where a firm decides to locate can affect the competitiveness of the firm as well as the city and region.
• Take an active role in improving the competitive environment in the cluster. This includes communicating the firm’s needs and desires to local universities, research institutes, and training centers that are part of the cluster.
• Identify issues of common concern and mutual gain for cluster participants, and support efforts to bring in companies that will fill in gaps in the cluster.
What Other Institutions Can Do
In addition to the government and private enterprise, there is a role for high schools, universities, associations and other institutions as well. Once again, borrowing on the work of Porter and others, actions that can be taken include:
• Work with federal, state, and local governments, as well as private industry, to promote cluster awareness.
• Engage in ongoing benchmarking by comparing the capabilities of a cluster to other clusters and identifying gaps, constraints, obstacles, advantages, and potential improvements.
• Work with local or regional institutions, including the government, to develop and deliver education, training, seminars, and other programs to fill in the gaps identified above.
Putting Principles into Practice
The above suggestions are being put in place around the world as cities, states, regions and countries compete for aerospace market share. A future blog will address the scale and scope of domestic and foreign aerospace clusters, but for now, the following examples illustrate how stakeholders at different levels in the U.S. are investing in this concept. At the federal level, the U.S. Economic Development Agency is in the process of issuing over $35 million in grants to advance regional innovation in Florida’s Space Coast. At the state level, the governor of Washington has made aerospace a priority – and for good reason. At the end of 2010, the state’s aerospace cluster included over 650 companies at every level of the supply chain. Finally, at the university level, the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School recently announced the launch of a cluster mapping web site, which is intended to assist in creating jobs, encouraging innovation, and spurring economic growth across multiple industries, including aerospace.
Today, it is clear that clusters have played a key role in helping the United States become a world leader in the aerospace industry. But it is also important to recognize that if America is to sustain its lead in aerospace manufacturing, leaders at multiple levels must continue to work together to support and grow clusters that can provide America with state-of-the-art innovative products that are the hallmark of the U.S. aerospace industry. Once again, if you have stories or thoughts to share, we would love to hear them.
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