We contribute to the literature on cluster dynamics to show that the outcome for declining industrial clusters are not necessarily restricted to death or renewal or replacement. We do so by considering upward and downward causation pressures in the evolution of the North Staffordshire’s ceramics cluster and the role of actors, their visions and the modification of their assets as influenced by both local knowledge sharing and exposure to ‘global buzz’ at international trade fairs. Efforts by cluster-level actors to reinvigorate the cluster appear to be having an effect, and we highlight the types of knowledge being infused into the cluster through these activities. We find the cluster is experiencing two different pathways simultaneously: the first is one of renewal, where traditional ceramicware firms have been supported by cluster-level actors to find new knowledge and make incremental innovations to support the aesthetic appeal of their product offerings and market reach; the second is a form of cluster exaptation where technical ceramics firms have moved onto a pathway with radical innovative potential associated with the properties of ceramics as advanced materials. We conclude with some policy suggestions for the revival of declining clusters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-514
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Urban and Regional Studies
Issue number4
Early online date18 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Actors
  • cluster lifecycle
  • knowledge linkages
  • path transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Actors, knowledge and path transformations in a declining cluster'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this