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:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Anna Spadavecchia


Type of module:

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.

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 tutorials (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 tutorials.


Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 3
Tutorials 3
Work-based learning 174
Total hours by term 197.00 3.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

One 2-hour unseen written paper.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Coursework: Analysis of a Cluster Case (groupwork) to be submitted by week 29.

Formative assessment methods:

Presentation based on the Analysis of a Cluster Case (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:

Assessment requirements for a pass:

The pass mark is 50%+.

The merit mark is 60%+.

The distinction mark is 70%+.

Reassessment arrangements:

By examination only (one two hour unseen written paper) in August/September. Coursework will not be included in the re-assessment.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 20 April 2018


Things to do now