Then  notion of “industrial commons” as a metaphor for the clustering of firms of a similar type in an area put forward by Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School is immediately attractive, as it easily explains things we have all seen, without recognising the implications.

Pre industrial revolution, the notion of commons applied to the common land on which all villagers could graze their cattle, or carry out other communal activity.

In the post industrial age, it is about the manner in which particular skills assemble over time in a location that enables them to leverage the proximity of the intellect into goods and services. Silicon valley is the best known example, but there are many others.

This puts a simple platform under many publicly funded efforts to enhance “clusters”  in my area of work, particularly in the production of high value specialty food products.

The growth of Orange in the central west of NSW as a fine food centre is supported by a wide range of agriculture, from broad acre cropping to intensive  horticulture and wine making, further supported by mining operation which give some scale to the engineering services sector, and the University offering agricultural science amongst a wide range of disciplines. By contrast, nearby Mudgee has all the agricultural advantages, possibly more, but lacks the mining, university and the attraction to general  tourism and passing trade, and so the clustering of food value adding has failed to gather the momentum of Orange.

The challenge in creating a “common” is the timeframe of the return on investment in the necessary infrastructure. Governments create and abandon a development program in sync with the electoral and economic cycles, commons will take a generation at least to gain traction, so governments should not be surprised to see their efforts largely fail, whilst next door, a “cluster” will evolve with little or no engagement of public funds beyond basic services, simply because it has all the natural conditions to thrive.