The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1840–1866 | Cite as

Cluster ambidexterity towards exploration and exploitation: strategies and cluster management

  • Tina WolfEmail author
  • Uwe Cantner
  • Holger Graf
  • Michael Rothgang


Cluster studies have shown that innovation often results from an inter-organizational process, where a division of labor with regard to exploration and exploitation exists among the actors inside a cluster. A cluster is ambidextrous if it manages to balance innovative activities that exploit existing competencies and is open to novel technological approaches by means of exploration. In this context, we are interested in the supportive role of cluster management, assuming that a cluster organization can only persist sustainably if exploitation and exploration are pursued in an appropriate balance. Our analysis is based on surveys conducted between 2011 and 2012 with ten cluster managements and their respective cluster firms of the first two waves of the German Leading Edge Cluster Competition. Our results indicate that the demand for services offered by the cluster management depends on companies’ strategies with respect to exploration, exploitation, and ambidexterity. In turn, the priorities set by the cluster management can be explained by the firms’ needs. Accordingly, we argue that cluster management acts as a service provider, helping the cluster companies to become ambidextrous which, in turn, makes the cluster as a whole ambidextrous.


Cluster Ambidexterity Cluster management Exploration Exploitation 

JEL Classification

D22 O32 R32 



The study was financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the research project ‘‘Begleitende Evaluierung des Spitzencluster-Wettbewerbs’’. Tina Wolf thankfully acknowledges the German Research Foundation (DFG) for providing a position within the DFG-GRK 1411 ‘‘The Economics of Innovative Change’’. We wish to thank two anonymous referees, members the research group DFG-GRK 1411, as well as participants at the Workshop on ‘‘Clusterforschung und Evaluierung von Clusterpolitiken’’ for helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Economics and Business AdministrationFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Department of Marketing and ManagementUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  3. 3.Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für WirtschaftsforschungEssenGermany

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