An assessment of the industry cluster approach as a tool for local economic development
: the case of the new media industry in Birmingham

  • Khanyisile D. Mabuza

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Industry cluster policies are a current trend in local economic development programmes and represent a major shift from traditional approaches. This trend has been coupled by an increasing interest in new media industry as a significant focus for regional development strategies. In England clusters and new media industry have therefore come to be seen as important tools in promoting local and regional economic development. This study aimed to ascertain the success of these policies. In order to achieve the aims of the study, the Birmingham new media industry was chosen for the study. In addition to an extensive review of the literature, semi-structured interviews were conducted with new media firms and Business Support Agencies (BSAs) offering programmes to promote the development of the new media industry cluster. The key findings of the thesis are that the concerns of new media industry when choosing their location do not conform to the industry cluster theory. Moreover, close proximity in geographical location of the industries does not mean there is collaboration and any costs saved as a result of close proximity to similar firms are at present seen as irrelevant because of the type of products they offer. Building trust between firms is the key in developing the new media industry cluster and the BSAs can act as a broker and provide neutral ground to develop it. The key policy recommendations are that new media industry is continually changing and research must continuously track and analyse cluster dynamics in order to be aware of emerging trends and future developments that can positively and negatively affect the cluster. Policy makers need to keep in mind that there is no uniform tool kit to foster the different sectors in cluster development. It is also important for them to be winning support and trust of new media firms since this is key in the success of the cluster. When cluster programs are introduced they must explain their benefits to industries more effectively in order to encourage them to participate in programmes. The general conclusions of the thesis are that clusters are a potentially important tool in local economic development policy and that the new media industry has a considerable growth potential. The kinds of relationships which cluster theory suggests develop between do not, as yet, appear to exist within the new media cluster. There are however, steps that the BSAs can take to encourage their development. Thus, the BSAs need to ensure that they establish an environment that enables growth of the industry.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael J Tricker (Supervisor) & John Mawson (Supervisor)


  • industry cluster approach
  • local economic development
  • new media industry
  • Birmingham
  • clusters
  • location theory
  • regional development policy
  • information and communication technology

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