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MSTF Study Assesses Maine's Technology-intensive Industries

June 28, 2002

A new report assessing Maine's seven targeted technology sectors represents the first systematic attempt to analyze the growth of the state's industry clusters. The report, Assessing Maine's Technology Clusters, was prepared for the Maine Science and Technology Foundation (MSTF) by the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School.

The MSTF report begins by defining clusters as more than geographic concentrations of firms in a similar industry. Clusters occur when a network of relationships between companies, suppliers, service providers and supporting institutions provide a competitive advantage to all related firms in the region, the report states.

A cluster strategy, the report observes, can benefit both rural and heavily populated areas in Maine. By pursuing an economic development strategy of investing in the technology sectors — information technology, biotechnology, advanced materials and composites, precision manufacturing, forest products and agriculture, marine technology and aquaculture, and environmental technologies — the state has sought to spur technological innovation in its traditional natural resource-based industries and to make its industries more competitive overall.

Eight major characteristics of successful clusters, such as Silicon Valley, Route 128 around Boston, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, are identified in the report. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the targeted technology sectors are assessed using the characteristics, and the sectors are grouped into four categories based on their cluster development: stars, potential stars, base industries and industries seeking direction.

The report concludes that Maine has no star clusters but potential stars, biotechnology and information technology. Additionally, Maine's forest products, agriculture and aquaculture clusters are strong, yet have small potential for growth.

Assessing Maine's Technology Clusters, a year-long project involving a survey of 170 individuals, launches the first of a four-stage process for economic development in Maine. The 144-page document is available in full and by section [PDF] at: http://www.mstf.org/