< BISTUS IX: Urban Climate & Environmental Justice
26.01.2021 11:44 Age: 239 days
By: Kiese

Clusters Against the Pandemic

11th MOC Class Analyses Biomedical Clusters in Ireland and Baden-Württemberg

International and interdisciplinary: Eleventh MOC class at RUB with RUB instructors Prof Matthias Kiese and Simon Rohde. (Screenshot by Matthias Kiese, 25 May 2021)

In October 2013, the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) was admitted to the Microeconomics of Competitiveness (MOC) Affiliate Network at Harvard Business School. Seven years later, Prof Matthias Kiese offers the MOC course developed by leading management professor Michael E. Porter for the eleventh time this semester. Owing to the current pandemic, the current edition is the second consecutive online MOC class at RUB.

Nine students participate in this innovative course offered by the Institute of Geography at RUB. Despite its small size owing to an avalanche of withdrawals at the start of the semester, the class once again represents remarkable variety with five different nationalities and study programmes. Leaving one guest student aside, half of the class consists of master programmes at the Institute of Geography, namely the M. Sc. programme in Geography (three) and the master programme 'transformation of urban landscapes'. Three students represent the M. Sc. in Economics (two) or Economic Policy Consulting (one), while another student is pursuing a degree in Environmental Technology and Resource Management.

Needless to say that class discussions once again benefit from the international and interdisciplinary mix of participants. "This diversity of backgrounds and experiences enriches our discussions enormously", rejoices Prof Kiese, as the course is built around case studies on the competitiveness of countries, regions and firms, as well as their spatial concentration in so-called clusters. MOC comprises eleven case studies this semester, including classics such as the Japanese fax industry and the Californian wine cluster, but also modern favourites like the Dutch flower cluster or Mayor Bloomberg's economic development strategy for New York City.

As in previous semesters, some discussions were led by guest instructors, including former RUB MOC instructor Dr Christian Hundt (Estonia in Transition) and Dr Dominika Kuberska on the Dutch Flower Cluster. Christian Hundt is now at the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, a federal research institute for rural areas, forestry and fisheries, while Dominika Kuberska is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (Poland). She has been an MOC Affiliate Member at Harvard Business School for many years.

Students complete the course with group projects, each group analysing the competitiveness of a cluster of their own choice. When choosing their case studies, the groups were clearly inspired by the ongoing race to develop vaccines to help overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. People's hopes are based on biopharmaceutical companies, which in turn benefit from their embeddedness in geographical clusters of similar firms and supporting organisations. While one group embarked on the study of the Irish biomedical & pharmaceutical cluster, another group analysis the competitiveness of the biotechnology cluster in the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regions of Baden-Württemberg, which is home to Tübingen-based drug developer CureVac.

Additional motivation comes from a World Cup-style contest. The best case study from Bochum will enter a competition with more than 100 universities worldwide, which are part of the MOC network. The winner will be honoured at the annual MOC affiliate workshop in Boston. In 2016, a RUB student team managed to claim the prestigious trophy with a case study on Frankfurt's financial services cluster.

While the eleventh MOC class at RUB just presented their group projects, preparations for the twelfth class in the Summer Term of 2021 are already under way. Is the future of MOC going to be online? Prof Kiese remains sceptical: "We have no choice but to go online once again, but discussions used to be more lively and vibrant in a physical classroom." Starting on 12 April 2021, the course will again be offered on a weekly basis via Zoom every Monday afternoon from 14-17 hours - Monday is MOC day! Until 31 March 2021, graduate and PhD-level students from all programmes across the University Alliance Ruhr (UAR) are invited to register with matthias.kiese(at)rub(dot)de stating name, programme and matriculation number. Places will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

Further information about MOC can be found here:




Bochum, 25 January 2021

Prof Dr Matthias Kiese