MMM131-Business Clusters

Module Provider: Henley Business School
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Anna Spadavecchia


Summary module description:

Clusters, or localised production systems, are a pattern of business organisation to be found in a variety of industries and countries around the world. These include creative industries such as video and film industries, design and fashion, advertising, music, publishing, but also IT, bio-medical and engineering industries, as well as agro- and food-processing industries. Clusters are major contributors to national economies and have attracted the interest of policy makers as well as academics.

The module covers conceptual and empirical aspects of the topic. It includes a discussion of the business dynamics taking place within clusters and to what extent these are a source of competitive advantage for newly established as well as long-established firms. 



This module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of this pattern of business organisation, its dynamics, and the advantages and disadvantages for businesses located there. Students will understand why these areas present high levels of new business formation and their importance in promoting the growth and competitiveness of businesses at various stages of their trading life. Students will achieve a critical understanding of the collective strategy of a cluster as well as the strategies adopted by individual businesses in order to thrive in a specialised, densely populated and highly competitive business environment. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students are assessed on their a) critical understanding of this pattern of business organisation, its strengths, weaknesses and challenges; b) ability to evaluate the impact of the cluster environment on new business formation and on the growth of young as well as long-established businesses; c) critical understanding of a cluster’s collective strategy as well as individual businesses’ strategies. 

Additional outcomes:

An in-depth understanding of cluster dynamics enables students to identify career opportunities within this context. Students work both independently, and in groups, leading to the development of time-management and team-working skills. They develop research skills, the ability to organise material and articulate arguments effectively. 

Outline content:

The module covers the main theories on clusters formulated by Marshall, Jacobs, Klepper and Porter, among others. Important contributions by Lundvall,  Krugman and MacCann will also be discussed. Networks and entrepreneurship are fundamental in understanding the dynamics at work within clusters and the discussion of these will be based on the work of Mark Casson.

Various facets of clusters will be explored, e.g. clusters as attraction poles for entrepreneurs; professional profiles and opportunities; availability of venture capital and financial services; diffusion of innovation and clusters as hubs of creativity; competition and cooperation; fragmentation of the value chain; collective strategies; the role of national and local institutions, including universities; resilience and decline of clusters; evolutionary perspectives.

These topics will be discussed with extensive references to specific cases including the Hollywood film industry; Silicon Valley and Boston Route 128; the Cambridge biotechnology cluster; the financial district in London; Italian fashion clusters; agro-food clusters in developing countries; electronic clusters in Malaysia; automotive clusters in China and engineering clusters in Japan. Students are encouraged to research and develop their own cases.


Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module consists of lectures (10x2) and seminars (3x1) in the Spring Term; one revision lecture (1x2) in the Summer Term. 

The main topics of the syllabus are covered in the lectures. Students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with key readings and contribute to the lectures, sharing their ideas and relevant work experience.

Students will present the research on their case studies in the seminars. 


Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 2
Tutorials 3
Work-based learning 175
Total hours by term 198.00 2.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Project output other than dissertation 40

Other information on summative assessment:

Coursework (Analysis of a cluster case, groupwork) has a 40% weight in the overall assessment of the module. 

Formative assessment methods:

Presentations of the groupwork.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

In accordance with the requirements of the relevant programmes.

Reassessment arrangements:

By examination only (one two hour unseen written paper) in August/September. 

Last updated: 27 September 2017

Letter 'IPO.MODCAT1STKT' - Generation started at 27/Sep/2017 09:37:21.34.

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