The entrepreneurial state in action: The Danish robotics cluster and the role of the public sector

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The question of the role of the state in the creation of competitive clusters and innovation systems has drawn increased attention in recent years. Drawing on Mariana Mazzucato's concept of the entrepreneurial state, this article investigates the role of the public sector in the development of the Danish robotics cluster, a world-leading cluster for production of industrial robots that has developed after the closing of Maersk's shipyard in the city of Odense. In what ways did public programs and actors contribute to the development of this cluster? In what ways did public programs facilitate entrepreneurs, and when did they function as agents or perhaps even risk-Takers? To answer these questions, this article tracks three layers of public agency: The local, the national, and the European. This article concludes that there were crucial initiatives at all three levels and that these initiatives were not coordinated, but nevertheless connected by a certain zeitgeist-the idea of public institutions taking responsibility for the competitiveness of private companies, an idea that blossomed in the period of high globalization from the late 1980s to the 2000s. In other words, what united the efforts of the public sector was not any master plan but an underlying thought collective that made the workings of the entrepreneurial state flexible and fit for the unpredictable nature of innovation. Thus, this article argues that industrial policy did not wither away in the age of neoliberalism but changed its form in an increasing complexity of state-market relations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnterprise & Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)68-98
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Denmark
  • Industrial clusters
  • Robotics Industry
  • The entrepreneurial state


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