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Many clusters - and nothing

Is there a place for industrial clusters in the development of Primorye for the next decade

The theme of development of industrial and innovation clusters in the Primorsky Territory occupies a significant place in the Development Strategy of the Territory up to 2030. But the realization of ambitious strategic plans is hampered not so much by subjective as by objective factors, for the purpose of which we need purposeful and coordinated efforts.

Many clusters - and nothing
Discussion Strategies for Primorsky Territory Development until 2030 touched on such an interesting topic as the creation of production clusters. Cluster policy for several years is among the priorities of the state. Thus, in the federal law "On industrial policy in the Russian Federation" 2014, measures were established to stimulate the activity of clusters in the sphere of industry - in particular, compensation through subsidies 50% of the costs for the implementation of projects.

The author of the term, economist Michael Porter, gives the following definition: "Clusters are geographically concentrated groups of interrelated companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries, and organizations related to their activities (for example, universities, standardization agencies, trade associations), in certain areas, competing, but at the same time leading joint work ". Concentration on a certain territory of companies operating in the same industry gives them a number of competitive advantages in the market: reducing costs for the production and maintenance of targeted infrastructure and other collective resources; development of the local labor market in the field of specialized qualifications; reduction of costs for communication between partners.

The HSE methodological guidelines translate these conditions into a requirement: the main prerequisite for the formation of an industrial cluster is “... the presence of at least ten subjects of activity in the field of industry, as well as objects of technological and industrial infrastructure, educational and scientific institutions and other organizations located within the boundaries of the subject of the Russian Federation, connected by cooperative relations in this area due to territorial proximity and functional dependence, on the basis of which joint projects of the industrial cluster participants are implemented and / or in the short term can be determined.

During the presentation of the Strategy section devoted to clusters in Vladivostok, the representative of the Cluster Observatory of the Higher School of Economics HSE Vasily Abashkin proposed to create several different clusters in Primorye: an innovative cluster led by FEFU, fish processing, shipbuilding, agro-industrial and petrochemical. The Strategy also mentions forest and aquaculture clusters. To manage the entire economy in the Strategy, it is proposed to create a cluster development center in Primorye, which is to provide consulting and organizational services to cluster members and conduct educational programs.

The ensuing discussion showed that local experts do not share the developers' optimism, and consider implementation of such plans unlikely.

Let's try to assess the possibilities of cluster policy in Primorye. One should start with a statement of the fact that it is not enough to "establish" a cluster - as a rule, they are not designed, but added. An example is the well-known cluster of import, transportation and service of Japanese cars, which developed in the Far East in the 1990s - 2000s. Confirmation is the basic requirement for a cluster from the HSE methodology cited above: the presence of at least 10 industry entities that are in cooperation - that is, we are talking about formal assignment of status to the already existing cooperation of producers. Are there similar “proto-clusters” in the listed areas?


"Pilot" case, from which the developers propose to begin implementation of the cluster policy in the province: it is planned to build a whole complex of enterprises-suppliers of ship equipment and components for shipbuilding around the shipyard "Zvezda" in Bolshoy Kamen, such an "ecosystem" in the next step may well be declared cluster. The problem is that in the province there has never been a production of ship equipment that was delivered to shipyards from other regions of the USSR or from abroad. There is no it even now, due to the lack of a market, since civil ship repair has long (and, apparently, irretrievably) emigrated to Korea and China. 

Hopes for the emergence of a local network of suppliers around the Star have not been justified yet: according to the representatives of the maritime business, all the contractors of the new shipyard are in Moscow (which is quite understandable, since there are hardly ten suppliers for the shipyard with the right quality and assortment). Suppliers in the TOP can be attracted, but since the anchor investor, under the residency agreement, is not required to give preference to local contractors, a change in the situation is possible only after adjusting the template contract with the resident of the TOP.


It would seem that for the emergence of such an association in the province there are all the conditions: local farming, which has grown on the state support of the agro industry, the availability of a specialized Mikhailovsky TOR, several anchor investors, including the largest federal agroholding Rusagro, and the proximity of the potentially unlimited market of China. But the Chinese market for local pork is still closed, and the signs of a cluster, like the networks of companies in production cooperation with the holding, are not yet seen around the Mikhailovsky TOR. 

In the future, the agro-industrial cluster in Primorye is possible, but several conditions are required for its emergence. The first is the opening of the Chinese market for the final products of the food industry, since while the Chinese import from Russia only raw materials in the form of grain. The Chinese partners are advancing other projects on the use of Primorsky land resources in their own interests - for example, the placement of dairy herds and fodder bases for it. These projects do not imply the inclusion of local entrepreneurs in the co-operation. Therefore, the second condition is the creation of infrastructure for the development of local production (first of all, marketing and logistics - some measures in this direction are envisaged by the Strategy), as well as energy supply to producers at affordable prices (this, in particular, gasification of the region's districts).

Perhaps the most discussed cluster "long-term construction" in Primorye, the project of which in the 2000s was developed by the Japanese Nomura Institute. At first glance, all the prerequisites for a fish cluster are evident: there is the sea, there is a fleet, there are potential sales markets. But upon closer examination of the situation in the fishing industry, it turns out that fishing in the Far East is profitable, but processing (especially selling) is not. 

The Soviet coastal infrastructure for processing fish has long been destroyed, there is almost no new one: for example, the search for an investor for the construction of a new refrigerator in the fishing port of Vladivostok still does not work. Over the past 20 years, a division of labor system has developed in the region, which is perfectly suited to all participants: the main part of the catch in the Okhotsk and Bering seas is being reloaded by local fishermen into Chinese refrigerators, which are brought to refining in Qingdao, where cyclopean factories producing fillets for supermarkets in Europe and America. Japanese and Korean buyers are also only interested in raw seafood. 

At the same time, local processing is focused on the local market - only expensive red fish and minimal volumes of maritime canned food that do not require special transportation conditions reach the middle zone of Russia. In the absence of access to the markets, there are no prospects for a seaside fish cluster. This conclusion can be confirmed by plans to launch a fish exchange in Vladivostok, where the future Far East catch will be sold, and the appearance of which will once again record the status of the region as a raw province.


The situation in the forestry sector of the province is determined by the monopoly "buyer's market" (Chinese), to which the bulk of timber and sawnwood is supplied. Until recently, there were only two exceptions to this rule: Terneyles, which works with the Japanese market, and Les-Export, which produces parquet from hardwood species. Today, in the province, several projects have been announced for the production of wood boards (MDF) and other building materials. But for the emergence of cooperation in the industry this is not enough, since the bulk of production - it's lumberjacks and sawmills, competing with each other (and other Far Eastern counterparts) for deliveries to the Chinese market, because of which the price of wood is constantly declining. A driver for the expansion of the internal forest market could be, for example, the state program for wooden housing construction (including for the recipients of the "Far Eastern hectare"), but there is no money in the regional budget, and the federal subsidy program does not provide the desired effect in the province.

VNKhK, the second (chronologically first) project of Rosneft in Primorye, is also being implemented as part of the TOP and is considered as a potential core of the cluster. Nevertheless, due to the slow pace of construction and the decline in projected processing volumes (from 30 million tons of oil per year to 5 million tons), it is premature to make any predictions about its success as a cluster. It should be noted that petrochemical production is very specific and requires complex expensive equipment, usually bought from a few of the world's leading manufacturing companies. This significantly reduces the likelihood of the appearance of any seaside companies among the suppliers of VNKhK. 

As for the further processing of products (fuel and polymers), it is not envisaged in the province, since all its volumes are planned to be supplied to the Asian markets on the ships of its own production. Among promising types of production cooperation, only gasoline deliveries to the filling stations of the region are seen. Part of the gas chemistry, apparently, will be implemented a project to build a fertilizer plant in Nakhodka, its clusterogenic potential is not yet discussed.

In theory, such a cluster is well assembled with fish processing and food industry, and has a chance of success due to the higher than the fish cost of produced delicacy products (mollusks and echinoderms). It is reasonable to participate in such a cluster of organizations of science, education, food production and the fleet. Within the framework of the aquaculture cluster formation, the Strategy provides for a number of impressive steps: creation of an aquaculture TOP, localization of production in the region of the world's leading producers, stimulation of aquaculture activities and others. 

Unfortunately, the list of measures does not mention steps to eliminate the main problems that hamper the development of aquaculture - namely, ensuring business access to marine areas and the lack of technology for growing products. The first problem is generated by competition for the water area with a lot of other water users, from transport workers to fishermen, who have an advantage in the distribution of rights to operate it. The second problem arises from inattention to this sphere of the state: despite the fact that the academic institutes and universities of the province were engaged in the issues of artificial breeding of hydrobionts even in Soviet times, today the country has neither specialists, nor technologies, nor equipment for aquaculture. Therefore, owners of sea gardens are forced as technologists to hire Chinese, and equipment to buy in Japan and Korea. Solving these two main problems can give an impetus to this promising direction, but for this a special regional program for the development of aquaculture is needed.


The developers of the Strategy proposed to create an innovation cluster on the basis of FEFU by including "... at least 40 industrial enterprises, scientific and educational organizations." In principle, the creation of something similar to an innocluster (with a technopark, business incubator, R&D centers) is envisaged in the development project of Fr. Russian as a scientific, educational and technological platform. The approach of the Strategy to an innovative cluster is quite simple: for its appearance, according to the developers, it is necessary to form expert and governing bodies of the cluster, as well as develop a system for administering joint projects of cluster members. 

Obviously, it is assumed that scientists, businessmen and students, being gathered in a specially created space for them, will immediately generate innovations and joint projects under the strict guidance of managers. At the same time, questions remain about what kind of cluster specialization should be based on the competencies of potential participants, who and why should enter the cluster, what cluster residents will produce and whom to sell, etc. Of the competencies available in the province, it is worth mentioning the direction of development of underwater robotics, which is separately indicated in the Strategy, but whether it is sufficient to form a cluster is the topic of a separate conversation. It should also be added that the creation of new innovative clusters by the Russian government is no longer supported.

Let us summarize what has been said. 

Despite the attractiveness of the cluster approach to the development of the housekeeper and the existence of certain prerequisites for the development of clusters in Primorye, there are a number of obstacles to the implementation of such a scenario. Obstacles are not so much subjective factors (like the lack of a cluster support center), but objective ones: the system of the international division of labor that has developed over the past decades, the positions of players in global markets, and the geographic and economic characteristics of Primorsky Krai. 

With respect to the prospects for the development of clusters in the region, the Strategy looks unjustifiably optimistic: the creation of all the listed is unlikely, there are two or three prospects for development (aquaculture, possibly shipbuilding, agro-industry, some specializations in innovative technologies) - but under certain conditions. To meet these conditions, a coordinated effort is required from a number of federal agencies, the regional administration, business companies and science / education institutions, as well as lobbying the interests of the region in these areas at the federal level.
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