The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1673–1697 | Cite as

Analysing the effects of cluster policy: What can we learn from the German leading-edge cluster competition?

  • Michael RothgangEmail author
  • Jochen Dehio
  • Bernhard Lageman


Building on experiences collected in the course of an evaluation of a German cluster policy programme, the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition (LECC, evaluation 2008–2014), this paper scrutinizes central problems that arise in the evaluation of the impacts of large-scale innovation policy programmes. We find that our relatively modest knowledge with regard to the actual effects and impact patterns of comparable programmes is not necessarily due to methodological weaknesses of the evaluation studies, but rather to inherent structural programme characteristics. The present state-of-the-art evaluation methodology does not sufficiently allow us to take into consideration these characteristics. Challenges in the evaluation of technology programs relate closely to different facets of complexity. Our analysis shows that three aspects of programme effects deserve more attention in evaluation research: Emergence and non-linearity, uncertainty, and time patterns of the observed effects. Using the example of the LECC, our paper demonstrates how evaluators’ work is affected by these phenomena. The results lead to the question of whether there are methodological alternatives that are suitable for future evaluations of complex innovation programmes.


Cluster policy Evaluation Complexity Emergence Uncertainty Time patterns 


O38 O33 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic ResearchEssenGermany

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