The Governance of Maritime Clusters and the Impact on Sustainable Development and Social Capital
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Clusters have become an almost de facto choice for regional development policymakers around the world and across nearly all industries. The maritime industry is no exception, with maritime clusters emerging in most maritime nations across developed and developing economies. There has been considerable focus to date on the development of clusters, and in particular policy-driven organisations and their impact on regional economic development and innovation. Less emphasis has been on their impact in socio-economic and environmental terms. It is commonly accepted that economic, social and environmental values must be combined in order to achieve sustainable development. The governance of such cluster organisations remains an under-developed aspect of the cluster literature. The measure of governance in this instance is the perception of governance in the eyes of the member firms within maritime cluster organisations.
Set against this background, this thesis employs a multi-phase approach to investigating perceptions of cluster governance and its effect on both social capital and sustainable development in maritime cluster organisations. Using existing theory, the research uses template analysis to analyse interview data from twelve cluster practitioners and member firms. The results from this preliminary qualitative phase informed the development of the questionnaire used in the quantitative phase of the research. The questionnaire was distributed to nine maritime cluster organisations across seven countries. The results from these questionnaires were analysed using a variance based statistical technique called Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling.
The findings from this research have four aspects; the first major finding is that a positive perception of cluster governance amongst member firms enhances both sustainable development and social capital within maritime cluster organisations. Secondly, social capital has been found to enhance sustainable development within the member firms of maritime cluster organisations. The third major finding is that social capital acts as a mediator in the relationship between cluster governance and sustainable development. The fourth finding and outcome of this research is the model of cluster governance that can be adopted by cluster managers to enhance the sustainable development of businesses within their organisations.
This research has practical implications for the managers of maritime cluster organisations. The empirical evidence provides cluster managers with support for clear strategic policy objectives designed to enhance cluster governance, and also for actions designed to improve the perception of governance. There are also implications for researchers focused on clusters, cluster policy and cluster governance with the empirically tested model of cluster governance contributing to the cluster governance literature.
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