Knowledgebased Clusters between local embeddedness and global orientation 

Overall aim and research questions

In a knowledge-based society, cities compete for a position as a global hub for R&D in various sectors. For many cities, urban R&D strategies become an important policy instrument. Against this background, the city of Vienna aimed to increase R&D activity and established a cluster management for several R&D sectors, in particular for life sciences, ICT, environment and transport mobility.

Here the question arises, how relevant are local co-operations – which form the main strategy of a local R&D policy – in and between R&D sectors for international top-level research? Against the background of the increasing internationalisation and virtualisation of academia, the traditional cluster policy seems to be more in question. It is the intention of this research project to contribute to this recent debate. In doing so, public and private R&D organisations were analysed using spatial statistics to identify significant concentrations and clusters. Further qualitative interviews were conducted to validate the quantitative outcomes.


The 1363 research organisations included in this study show a high degree of concentration, particularly in the districts closest to the city centre. This spatial pattern is rooted in the locations of established institutions (such as the universities), access to local public transport and the general infrastructure. Two research areas, anchored in both the public and private sectors, are particularly prominent in this sense: life sciences and information and communication technologies (ICT). Both exhibit a ‘critical mass’ and show the highest levels of concentration.

The life sciences are concentrated in four important locations: the Medical University and its surroundings in the 9th district; the Vienna Biocenter in the 3rd district; Muthgasse in the 19th district; and the Veterinary University in the 21st district. In contrast, the ICT cluster is characterised by one single pole around the Technical University and spreads out into the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th districts. Over time, these spatial patterns show only small changes, with some exceptions, such as the University of Economics and Business moving to its new campus. Generally speaking, the spatial concentration has become more pronounced and large research locations have gained importance.

Almost all of the research bodies in Vienna engage in both local and international co-operations. Whereas regional links are more pronounced in the start-up period, as a company becomes more established, global co-operation becomes more important. Some reasons for this are the requirements of EU funding, the development of niche strategies, a strong focus on global markets or the demand for scientific expertise that is not available locally. Spatial proximity is valued, however, for its convenience and for facilitating the opportunity for informal exchange and networking. Shared infrastructure is of particular importance in the life sciences sector, as no single university or company could afford it alone.


Musil, R. und Eder, J. (2016): Wozu räumliche Nähe in der urbanen Wissensökonomie? Eine geostatistische Analyse Wiener Forschungscluster. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung. DOI 10.1007/s13147-016-0458-8

Musil, R. und Eder, J. (2016): Towards a location sensitive R&D policy. Local buzz, spatial concentration and specialisation as a challenge for urban planning – Empirical findings from the life sciences and ICT clusters in Vienna. In: Cities 59, S. 20-29.

Musil, R. und Eder, J. (2015): Local buzz in der Wiener Forschung. Wissensintensive Cluster zwischen lokaler Einbettung und internationaler Orientierung. ISR-Forschungsberichte Band 41. Verlag der Österr. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien. 125 S. ISBN 978-3-7001-7562-9



August 2014 - March 2015


Stadt Wien, Beauftragter der Stadt Wien für Universitäten und Forschung