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A newly formed interdisciplinary IAS consortium recently got a project granted to study the complexity and resilience of regional industry clusters in the context of climate policy. The project is funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands aims to stimulate the energy transition in five regional industry clusters, under the assumption that an integrated approach in the region can help to achieve synergetic benefits in realising the required emission reduction. The Ministry wants to assess the potential effect of various policy interventions and transition scenarios on the clusters, which -first of all- requires a better understanding of the implicit complexity of the clusters.

Regional clusters are characterised by strong interconnectedness and interdependency, leading to complex networks of interactions (e.g. information, products, financial flows), and they typically share common markets, infrastructure and technologies, and worker skill needs. These connected networks form one so-called multiplex network.

Using network science, the vulnerabilities, robust elements and critical innovation assets in such multiplex networks can be analysed. The project team will examine the resilience of one specific regional industry cluster, focussing on the interwovenness and external dependencies of the network. The network analyses will then be used in an interactive workshop with policy makers to reason about the potential dynamics in the cluster: e.g. what could happen to the cluster if one key player changes its business strategy? How will an integrated transition approach (energy, circular), stimulated by policy interventions, effect the cluster as a whole? Can vulnerabilities in the energy-intensive industry clusters have an effect on other industries?

Exploring these questions with a complex network approach will give the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy an additional perspective on how to steer towards the much-needed transitions.