Or, more specifically, on the scale that regional governments hope for. While some governments still don't get it, many are actively working to grow their local development sector. (Korea recently announced a US$200 million investment in the sector over the next four years.) A highly educated workforce producing mostly exported products with a relatively low ecological footprint is an economic development intervention no-brainer. Yet many of today's largest hubs have had no such helping hand.
So what's the recipe? Why do industry clusters form? What levers can we pull to nudge the ecosystem forward and catalyze healthy evolution?
Some obvious ingredients are things like access to talent, funding and feeder/helper industries (think movies or aerospace or tool vendors). Government aid programs like production tax credits or workforce training aids also help. And in recent years, success in cluster development efforts has often come from a partnership - sometimes formal, sometimes more organic - between industry, academia and government. Each provides inputs and outputs, each bears some of the costs and each shares in the rewards of growth and progress. In the best cases, this engenders a virtuous cycle that intrinsically motivates each party to play their role in the ecosystem.
One example is a group of studios working with a local university on a game programming degree. Some of those students will be hired by the studios, making for an increased employment and tax base for the government. The government provides R&D tax credits to stimulate cutting edge development and foster global competitiveness. The studios win publishing deals and hire more students, then train their workforce with the help of government subsidies. The university sets up an incubator with government and industry funding to focus on generating new IP. And ... you get the idea.
In that totally random example, no single ingredient makes the difference. Each bit plays its part, and similarly good stuff could occur even if you shook it all up and re-rolled the dice. Industry advocates who press for a magic bullet, a single missing ingredient to solve everything, are neglecting the big picture. There are no simple solutions when it comes to growing and evolving an ecosystem.
We actually know very little about the economic interplay between organizations within these industry hotbeds. Conversely, if we look at the world of visual arts (paintings, galleries, etc.), the picture grows more clear. We know artists flock to megatropolises like New York and Paris, often living in specialized sub-communities with other artists. Low-rent loft space serves as a place to create and show work. In turn, this loft party circuit enables artists to "spy" on one another, assessing new techniques and ideas. Galleries typically spring up in close proximity to facilitate the discovery of new talent. And collectors appreciate the ability to shop around easily. These factors are the centripetal force that pulls a creative ecosystem together.