Simple ~ Secure ~ Blog

Who makes up a Cluster?

Cyber Security Cluster
                                                (find out)

To support its mission and foster competitiveness and innovation, the Securing our eCity (SOeC) initiative established a cluster working group. This group would (by the end of 2011) make a recommendation to its stakeholders on whether a formal cyber-security cluster initiative should be initiated in San Diego, California. As a result, this article is used as a mechanism to prompt further discussion regarding the forming of a cluster working group.

Executive Summary:

San Diego’s SOeC’s mission is to enable every San Diegan to live, work and play safely in the cyber world. To support its mission, SOeC established several working groups including: Public/Private Partnerships, Policy, Security Metrics, Awareness, Education, Law Enforcement, Critical Infrastructure and Cluster.

The cluster working group is the only group that has not had its first meeting. The reason for this is fairly straight forward. Each of the other working groups is led by experts (cochairs) in their associated field(s). These co-chairs initiated their first and subsequent meetings earlier in the year. However, understanding how clusters work, their dynamics and how they evolve over time is not a common expertise. Therefore, it has taken more time to identify experts in cluster initiatives and cluster management or facilitation.

References: Several references were reviewed and used for the basis of this article paper.

  • The ‘Clusters of Innovation Initiative Report’ by Professor Michael E. Porter, Harvard University, and Duane Ackerman, Chairman and CEO of BellSouth ISBN 1-889866-23-7 May 2001
  • The ‘Cluster initiative Greenbook’ by Orjan Solvell, Goran Lindqvist, Christian Ketels with Forward by Professor Michael E. Porter, ISBN 91-974783-1-8, 1ST edition, August 2003
While these references provide a more comprehensive analysis when attempting to
understand Clusters and Cluster initiatives, the intent of this talking paper is to cover the
basics and keep the discussion at a high level.


What is a cluster? As described in the Clusters of Innovation Initiative Report a cluster is geographically proximate groups of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by customer, supplier, or other relationship.

What is a Cluster initiative? The Cluster Initiative Greenbook defines a cluster initiative as an organized effort to increase growth and competitiveness of clusters within a region, involving cluster firms, government and/or the research community.

Important Questions: There are several important questions to ask about cluster initiatives and clusters. For
example, why are cluster initiatives important? Why are clusters important? How does their importance relate back to the SOeC initiative? To help answer these questions lets advance the discussion.


Cluster of Innovation Initiative Report

The Cluster of Innovation Initiative Report was developed to help meet the challenge of understanding how clusters develop within a regional economy such as San Diego and provide lessons to inform key decision makers in every part of the country. It was the first of the five regional reports. The other regions included: Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and Wichita. Why was San Diego first? According to the report, it was chosen as a pilot region since San Diego in the past had reduced its dependence on tourism and defense aerospace emerging from a deep recession over a decade ago to become one of the nation’s fastest growing economic regions.
note #1

According to the report, “regional economies are the building blocks of U.S. competitiveness”. The report also states “the nation’s ability to produce high-value products and services depends on the creation and strengthening of regional clusters of industries that become hubs of innovation”. This makes sense since local community’s
impact regions, regions impact the nation and the nation impacts the world.

Successful clusters as hubs of innovation therefore play a very important role in a global economy. This importance relates directly back to the SOeC initiative and its mission. To see this more clearly, let’s explore how it all ties together.

SOeC’s Mission > Cluster initiative > SD Economic Goal

The success rate of SOeC’s mission (to enable San Diegan’s to live, work and play safely in the cyber world) improves by building capacity to foster a ‘Clusters of Innovation’ concept. The concept starts with the creation of a cluster initiative which could result in a successful San Diego cyber-security cluster that fosters competitiveness and innovation. Its success would in turn support San Diego’s central economic goal. note #2

Conclusion: Developing innovation in cyber-security through cluster activity leads to a safer cyber world. This safer cyber world for San Diegan’s, ultimately supports San Diego’s overall central economic goal to attain and sustain a high and rising standard of living for its citizens. The end result could have a world impact.

The Journey Ahead

The journey ahead starts with people. People are the drivers of companies and business, research academia and government agencies; a triple helix, all working together, building trust and collaborating.

When there is a genuine reason for coming together towards a common goal, people deliver. This is no different in the formation of clusters. However, there has to be a genuine reason for coming together. Is San Diego’s SOeC mission enough reason to bring people together in the formation of a cyber-security cluster? It may not be sufficient justification to show the connection of a possible cyber-security cluster initiative to the SOeC mission or how that mission would in turn support the central economic goal for San Diego. Rather, San Diego already has various clusters including an Information Technology cluster and some may conclude a cyber-security cluster exists or falls within this cluster.
note #3

Determining the next step(s)

If forming a SOeC cluster working group is the desired approach in order to setup a formal cyber-security cluster initiative in San Diego (or simply determine if a cyber-security cluster already exists), obtaining consensus from the cluster working group members is a good starting point. If you are reading this talking paper which is intended to be used as reference for the first and subsequent meetings, your input in helping generate further discussion in an attempt to gain consensus is welcome.


When determining the recommended approach for creating a formal cyber-security cluster initiative, the references listed in this paper are a good source of information to anyone involved with furthering the discussion on clusters and cluster initiatives. Identifying or creating and subsequently evolving a specialized regional collaboration in the form of a cyber-security cluster supports SOeC’s mission which in turn supports San Diego’s economic goal to attain and sustain a high and rising standard of living for its citizens. For the purpose of adding additional value to future discussions, a few important points are provided:

  • Clusters can’t be made out of nothing. Rather, they build on something that already exists. Example, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Regional Cluster initiative.
  • Companies are the owners or drivers of clusters and the cluster itself helps other companies within the cluster cope with technology challenges they could not do on their own.
  • While Government helps build social capital for clusters by bringing groups together and setting the stage and structure, its purpose is to also help mobilize and kick start the cluster. However, over time the cluster should evolve from its initiating agency to the private sector. With this in mind, it’s important to note that if government expects to invest, the cluster must show benefit.
  • To be successful, there should be multiple funding (no one agency dominates) and the agenda is truly owned by actors in the region rather than being imposed on them from outsiders.
  • Leaders who understand and have a passion to engage (while not coming to the table to develop agendas for their organization but rather have a wider perspective) are important to initiating cluster initiatives and the success of the resulting cluster(s).

1 The report was published in May 2001.

2 San Diego’s central economic goal as described in the Cluster of Innovation Initiative Report should be
to attain and sustain a high and rising standard of living for its citizens.

3 The Clusters of Innovation Initiative Report indicates San Diego enjoys strong positions in numerous clusters,
including: power generation, aerospace and defense vehicles, biotechnology/pharmaceuticals, communications,
information technology, analytical instruments, medical devices, financial services, transportation and logistics,
hospitality and tourism, education and knowledge creation, publishing and printing, and sporting and leather goods.