Today’s most competitive regions in the United States and around the world are driven by innovation clusters geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field. National studies show that successful clusters are associated with increased rates of business formation and growth, higher wages, greater productivity, and more rapid cycles of innovation.
Examples of well-known clusters nationwide include: Silicon Valley (electronics, software, digital media), Boston (life sciences, higher education, financial services), New York (financial services, media, pharmaceuticals), Seattle (aircraft, information technology), Houston (energy, chemicals), Detroit (motor vehicles), and Los Angeles (entertainment, design, trade).
Southeast Florida is best known for its industry clusters related to tourism, construction/real estate, and agriculture, and is gaining recognition in other areas such as life sciences and global trade and logistics. The region has a mix of clusters today at various points in their lifecycle.
Cluster strategies often are best pursued at a regional scale that matches supply chains and business-to-business relationships, and focuses on where innovation-oriented businesses and skilled labor co-locate. There are examples of regional cluster initiatives today such as Life Science South Florida. The region’s seven counties are pursuing similar lists of targeted industries, but often on an individual basis that may not build critical mass and economies of scale.
Moving forward, the region should develop a seven-county cluster strategy that defines and evaluates the region’s clusters, and identifies two to three clusters that can be a primary focus for coordinated regional-level economic development activities. This cluster strategy should consider how to:
- Support expanding clusters such as logistics or life sciences that can be the drivers of growth in the coming decades;
- Facilitate early identification and nurturing of emerging clusters such as clean technology, design, marine industries, aerospace, or marine and environmental science that could become significant drivers in the future;
- Help transition established clusters to serve new markets, including focusing on emerging niches for tourism (high-end business meetings and eco-tourism), agriculture (renewable energy), and military (homeland security technologies); and
- Help align education, training, research, infrastructure, regulations, and other public policies and investments to address each cluster’s opportunities and needs.