This article focuses on how to boost innovation by stimulating the emergence of joint R&D projects within cluster initiatives. Based on empirical studies on R&D-oriented cluster initiatives, it sheds light on cluster R&D management, a key but hardly ever studied issue, and explains how cluster managers attempt to stimulate and to intermediate innovation by applying three central tactics, possibly enriched by other ex ante and ex post peripheral tactics. Drawing on these empirical results, tested on 15 cluster managers, the article then illustrates that the encompassing model of upstream innovation intermediation process proposed by Sieg et al. (2010) addresses in fact only one among the several possible forms of such processes. Then, splitting Noteboom’s notion of ‘optimal cognitive distance’ into two different dimensions, it shows that this refined notion of cognitive proximity/distance between actors helps understand such a diversity of innovation intermediation processes and their varied efficiencies.
Keywords: cluster management, innovation intermediation, joint R&D projects, optimal cognitive distance, C-K theory, economies of proximity, sub-cluster communities, gatekeepers, systemic intermediary, cluster initiatives