San Diego’s Bioscience Cluster and Berlin’s Club Scene

The Scope of Urban Policies in a Florida-esque Age of Creative Cities

Essay, 2012

20 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1. Introductory Remarks
1.1. Setting the Stage
1.2. Refuting Florida, Praising Governance, Sidelining Cluster Economics
1.3. Paper Outline

2. Empirical Cases
2.1. San Diego’s Bioscience Cluster
2.2. Berlin’s Club Scene

3. The Scope of Urban Policies
3.1. Beyond the Scope of Urban Policies
3.2. What City Governments Can Do
3.3. Where City Governments Should Be Cautious

4. Concluding Remarks

5. References


This paper discusses the relation of Richard Florida’s notion of creative cities, cluster economics, and urban policies towards creative industries. Two empirical cases, San Diego’s bioscience cluster and Berlin’s club scene, are examined in order to reconstruct their success, analyze corresponding factors, identify challenges and problems, and discuss recent developments. Conclusions will be drawn on what city governments’ policies can or cannot as well as should not do to support creative industries. It will be argued that the scope of urban policies even in a Florida-esque age of creative cities is still well-related to (‘traditional’) cluster policies but therefore also limited by scale and dependent on private enterprises and cluster actors that have an active role in attracting other creative people.

1. Introductory Remarks

1.1. Setting the Stage

This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Richard Florida’s groundbreaking book “The Rise of the Creative Class” (2002). For some, it will be a real celebration, for others it will be a day of mourning for one decade of ill-suited, big-government or neo-liberal urban policies – depending on the political standpoint. Even though Florida’s ideas were not completely new, he changed the thinking and acting of many city officials worldwide. It has been his style of presenting and promoting the concept (rather than a ‘theory’) of the creative class. And civic leaders have since then been eager to hear what role creative workers can and will play for the socioeconomic vitality of cities and regions.

Briefly summarizing one of Florida’s main points that has not been totally refuted, I would like to underscore that “geography is not dead” (Florida 2002: 4), and thus places have to attract high-skilled creative people that will move to cities which can offer a high quality of life. Even though Florida wrote that “there is no one-size-fits-all strategy” (2002: xxiii), he has been giving various recommendations to city officials on what they have to do in order to attract the talent that will ensure their cities’ growth (or survival) in the future. Florida explains the importance of culture and its scenes (music, film, art, outdoor recreation etc.) – traditional amenities such as shopping malls or sports stadiums do not attract the creative class any longer (2002: 9, 183). Instead of these physical attractions, talented people seek “high-quality experiences, an openness to diversity of all kinds, and, above all else, the opportunity to validate their identities as creative people” (Florida 2002: 9). What already becomes apparent is that even these recommendations lack specific guidelines on ‘how’ city officials can eventually achieve the newly outlined goals.

This might be due to the specificity of each city’s case, but the following discussion of Florida’s ample critics will underscore how ‘good old urban policies’ have been disregarded in a heated debate characterized by many stereotypes of and accusations against social-liberals versus social-conservatives as well as government-advocates versus neo-liberal hardliners (cf. Peck 2005: 740-741).

1.2. Refuting Florida, Praising Governance, Sidelining Cluster Economics

The format of such a paper is far too limited to give a complete overview of the responses to and critiques against Florida that have filled hundreds of journals since 2002. Therefore, I will not deal with the methodological objections against Florida’s use of statistics and rankings (cf. Malanga 2004, or Peck 2005 criticizing Malanga’s use of statistics to refute Florida: 755), because they will not be part of my argumentation. Furthermore, I will also not deal with Florida’s alleged political motives and possible negative repercussions from his policy recommendations that he did or did not neglect (cf. Peck 2005: 746).

What seems most relevant to me are three aspects: the logic behind Florida’s argumentation, the advocacy for (self-) governance in the creative economy, and the sidelining of cluster economics in much of the creative city research. Starting with the first aspect, Peck (2005: 755), amongst others, correctly underscores how the circular fashion in Florida’s argumentation does not shed light on the (direction of the) causation between economic growth and cultural innovation. Another corresponding critique by authors such as Pratt (2008) is that the understanding of cultural activities as a somehow disregarded business in the past has led cities to co-opt culture into (neo-liberal) urban strategies for economic development (catchphrase: commodification of arts).

The second aspect deals with authors that accept and appreciate the role of cultural industries in a post-Fordist era. Amongst others, Lange et al. (2008, 2009b) have spent a great amount of work understanding and analyzing features of creative (cultural) industries and explaining what these characteristics mean for traditional urban politics: “informal alliances between private and public stakeholders, self-organized networks to promote new products in new markets and context-oriented forms such as branding of places, represent new forms of managing the urban” (Lange et al. 2008: 535). Since creative industries contrast typical hierarchical power and representation structures, the solution for ‘creative cities’ to support these industries lies in “context governance” in which a supportive environment is created (Lange et al. 2009b: 26). Self-governance of creative industries such as in networks or co-governance such as in public-private partnerships (Lange et al. 2009b: 16-18) could be understood as a practical response to Florida’s request for an enriching urban climate that encourages creative people to realize their ideas.

The third aspect is directly related to the second one, because in the academic discourse about new forms of urban governance, traditional ideas of urban government have become less salient in the debate. Critics like Peck (2005: 767) are arguing that the general assumptions derived from (neo-) liberal economic theories are already false and thus first have to be radically changed before we can discuss sustainable approaches to high-quality urban life. However, this revolution might still take some time and scholars would exclude themselves from discussions about what city governments can do right now in order to achieve various goals. If we accept the premise that cities are in competition with each other (not for the sake of competition itself, but because of the disposition to differentiate themselves from each other – which does not rule out inter- or intra-regional cooperation), cities have to appeal to creative industries and people that will form the foundation of the socioeconomic well-being of urban regions (Scott 2006a: 2, 5, 13).

Therefore, I cannot explain why the extensive stock of cluster research has not often found its way into the discussion about creative cities with regard to urban policies. If we understand governance as governing, coordinating, or managing (the process of) politics, often with a specific focus on actors, institutions, and networks as well as their interrelations (Benz and Dose 2010: 25-27), the overwhelming majority of literature deals with governance aspects. Thereby, it has not fulfilled the task of bringing new understandings of governance and findings from research on urban policies towards clusters together. At the end of my paper, I will again refer to these perspectives and related tasks for research, but for the moment now, I would like to stress the following: Without any doubt, governance aspects have and will increasingly become more relevant. Nevertheless, ‘traditional’ government is still there and I think it is worthwhile to critically assess the scope of policy options with regard to creative industries. At this juncture, it might also be worthwhile to look at (‘traditional’) cluster policies, because creative industries of a particular (economic) strength/size are often very similar to clusters with their spatial proximity, business network structure, information exchange systems, internal relationships, particular infrastructures, and the spatiality of knowledge creation (cf. Evans 2009; Bathelt, Malmberg, and Maskell 2004).

1.3. Paper Outline

Having laid out the research field as I perceive it, the general questions and related hypotheses for this paper are very clear and simple: I will investigate two empirical cases, the bioscience cluster in San Diego (United States) and the club scene in Berlin (Germany), in order to reconstruct how they became essential creative ‘sectors’ of their city. I will analyze main success factors, deal with challenges and problems, and discuss recent developments with regard to these creative industries and their corresponding city governments. Then I will draw conclusions from the examples by assessing what city governments can or cannot as well as should not do with respect to urban policy options when trying to support creative industries. My main argument is that the scope of urban policies even in a Florida-esque age of creative cities is still well-related to (‘traditional’) cluster policies but therefore also limited by scale and dependent on private enterprises and cluster actors that have an active role in attracting other creative people.

With regard to the two empirical cases, I understand ‘creative industries’ as being creative insofar as they are fundamentally dependent on creative individuals that are constantly developing innovative ideas in science or arts. People working in these creative industries need an enriching and supportive environment, which means that place-related factors are of high relevance (cf. Florida 2002: 44-48).

While San Diego has more to offer than only its bioscience cluster (defense and transportation, cybersecurity and robotics, energy and cleantech, information technologies and communications; CONNECT 2012b: 7-11), Berlin’s creative industries go far beyond the club scene (fashion design, film, software and games, design and architecture, advertising, and performing arts; SenWTF 2008: 24), I decided to focus on biotech and the club scene, because I have lived in both cities and experienced as well as studied the biotech cluster and the club scene in the everyday life (University of California in San Diego campus in Torrey Pines Mesa; podium discussions and nightlife) as well as in my professional occupation (field study on sustainable biotech facilities in San Diego; work for a participatory neighborhood management and branding firm in Berlin).

Even though San Diego’s bioscience cluster and Berlin’s club scene seem to not have much in common, the following analysis will show how, for example, Florida’s 3 T’s (talent, technology, and tolerance; 2002: 10-13) can be found in both examples. That the two cases are based on different forms of these 3 T’s is without any doubt. Nevertheless, both cities are regularly named as creative places, brand themselves as bioscience or club/music cities respectively, and are trying to adjust their policies in order to support their corresponding creative industries (cf. for instance the official websites of both cities).

2. Empirical Cases

2.1. San Diego’s Bioscience Cluster

The Story

San Diego’s bioscience cluster is one of the best in the United States (after Boston and San Francisco) and home to multi-billion-dollar transnational corporations as well as ample start-up companies that together make up a majority of the region’s 44,000 employees and 6,400 patents (CONNECT 2012b: 7-9). Concerning the term ‘bioscience’, it can be thought of as a mixture between biotechnology and life science thus resembling the concentration of biomedical research and production in San Diego.

Walcott (2002) introduces her study of the bioscience cluster in San Diego by describing it as an “innovative environment and the matching of place characteristics with a specific economic activity” (99) and explaining how the “formation of synergistic connections” promoted “political, economic, and social networks of entrepreneurial individuals at the metropolitan scale” (99). Even though I will not go into the details of cluster research with regard to innovation transfer etc., I will briefly describe the rise of San Diego’s bioscience cluster before identifying major factors of its success.

Started with the founding of the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) and (affiliated as well as) adjacent research institutes (Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Scripps Research Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute), the bioscience cluster really took off after the success of Linkabit (1968; the multi-billion-dollar telecommunication corporation Qualcomm became its most important spin-off) and the anti-bodies producer Hybritech (1978) (more on the history, cf. Global CONNECT 2010, Walcott 2002). Both companies were founded by UCSD professors, which already hints to the strong interrelation between research and risk business in San Diego, or the Torrey Pines Mesa community in particular (Bennett 2008). Having been far away from the bioscience centers in Boston and San Francisco as well as the political centers in Sacramento (state level) and Washington, D.C. (federal level), San Diego nevertheless recorded a significant increase in new companies, jobs, and investments in the 1990s (Walcott 2002: 102). This is often accredited to the region’s open communication culture, knowledge economy, and “the promise to build something from nothing” (Global CONNECT 2010: 7) in a place where newcomers are always welcome and integrated. But we have to look closer into the details in order to identify what the actual success factors have been.


San Diego’s bioscience cluster could not exist without the constant knowledge and talent ‘production’ at the “outstanding research university” UCSD (Walcott 2002: 99) and its adjacent research institutes. Early on, they developed an environment in which competition and cooperation as well as an interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial approach have been highly appreciated and advocated (Global CONNECT 2010: 4). This human and physical capital (creative talents and cutting edge laboratories) have been met with billions of dollars from both the private sector (venture capital) and the state and federal budget (R&D grants, particularly from the National Institutes of Health) (Global CONNECT 2010: 4; Walcott 2002: 102). One has to underscore the Bayh-Dole University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act of 1980 – an intellectual property legislation that fundamentally facilitated the partnership between research institutes or their scientists with private enterprises (Walcott 2002: 105).

The bioscience cluster has also profited from San Diego’s relative remoteness, since this has necessitated and strengthened human networks and a collaborative community that resulted in a region-based milieu (Global CONNECT 2010: 8). Information has been exchanged in this network intensively and newcomers have found plenty of new ‘playing fields’, since the region, even though specialized in life science, still has had a diverse range of sectors to offer for new innovations (Global CONNECT 2010: 4). Thereby, the cluster in San Diego relied time and again on private-led initiatives to improve the economic health of the life science sector. CONNECT as the non-profit life science organization and the San Diego Biocommerce Association (BIOCOM) are only the two most prominent examples to share information, support research and start-up enterprises, connect them to capital, offer training, represent the industry, and advocate cluster-related policies on every policy level (CONNECT 2012a; BIOCOM 2006, 2010).

Finally, there are also place-specific factors for San Diego’s bioscience cluster, as for example the spatial proximity in Torrey Pines Mesa that has only been possible, because the city set aside plenty of (though not enough) industrially zoned land (Walcott 2002: 110). The cluster has also been dependent on a secured supply of large amount of water as well as a high-quality energy infrastructure that was originally realized by heavy investments of the State of California (Bennett 2008).


For an extensive cluster analysis, one would have to describe the challenges San Diego’s bioscience cluster has been facing with much more details. For the purpose of this paper, it shall be sufficient to note the following challenges that are directly related to the cluster’s success factors: The bioscience cluster sees its talent reservoir threatened, because the fiscal crisis of the State of California has dramatically worsened in the past years of the financial/economic crisis (Global CONNECT 2010: 13). A de-investment in public universities (like UCSD) and K-12 education could severely disadvantage the region in its national as well as global competition – even more with regard to San Diego’s challenge to integrate immigrants (Walcott 2002: 108).

Another problem regards the region’s transportation infrastructure, particularly the linkages: Traffic gridlock and a rather old and small airport do not support the interconnection of San Diego with other clusters elsewhere (Global CONNECT 2010: 7; Walcott 2002: 108). The shortage of water and affordable (industrially zoned) land will be an even bigger challenge, since those two factors concern natural/geographic aspects of the region and San Diego in particular and have inhibited the mature-stage development of large-scale manufacturing and distribution facilities (BIOCOM 2006, 2010). The shortage of developable land has also fiercely decreased affordable housing in San Diego (City of San Diego 2008: SF-27). With regard to the state level, CONNECT, amongst others, criticizes life science regulations and tax rates (Global CONNECT 2010: 13).

Recent Developments

The case of San Diego is of great importance in 2012, because the city will hold mayoral elections this summer. Candidates already invented slogans that aim at reigniting the 40-year-old city proclamation “America’s Finest City”. The new slogans, such as “The World’s Most Innovative City” (Fletcher 2012: 3) or “Perfect Climate for Business” (DeMaio 2012: 85), underscore how San Diego and its creative industries are thought of as one entity in branding the city. More companies (or people) shall be attracted by a high quality of life in an environmentally prime location. Easier and faster permit processions, fee waivers, an improved public transit system, job coordinators for specific industry sectors, the enlargement of the convention center, as well as an intensified advertising of the city and its economy through fairs, exhibitions, and ‘diplomatic missions’ are all on the agenda of the candidates (cf. Voice of San Diego 2012; Fletcher 2012; DeMaio 2012).

San Diego’s city officials seem to have also read some of Florida’s recommendations or simply come up with the following ideas on their own: As a minority majority city, San Diego increasingly praises its American-Mexican history and culture (City of San Diego 2008: iii). The City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s Organizational Support Program, which is funded by the transit occupancy tax, supports local culture as does the “Public Workers Projects 2% for Art” and the “Private Development 1% for Art” (City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture 2011; City of San Diego 2008: UD-30-33). With a “city of villages” strategy (City of San Diego 2008: SF-3), San Diego has developed neighborhood-specific mixed-use centers and follows plans to further extend the public transit system as well as its pedestrian-friendly urban design.

The often appraised environmental features of San Diego (parks, beaches, canyons etc.) play a major role in the city’s general plan (City of San Diego 2008: SF-6, 20-21, 23-24, CE-4-7, RE-19-36), in which sustainability goals are indicated with respect to, for example, the reuse of reclaimed water, conservation measures, or the implementation of a green network of open spaces that shall further encourage recreation activities. From the previous explanations, several conclusions will be drawn after the second empirical case is presented.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


San Diego’s Bioscience Cluster and Berlin’s Club Scene
The Scope of Urban Policies in a Florida-esque Age of Creative Cities
University of Frankfurt (Main)  (Institut für Humangeographie)
Cultural Geographies of Economy
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
506 KB
diego’s, bioscience, cluster, berlin’s, club, scene, scope, urban, policies, florida-esque, creative, cities
Quote paper
B.A. Renard Teipelke (Author), 2012, San Diego’s Bioscience Cluster and Berlin’s Club Scene, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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