Researchers often assess a lack of sustainability for top-down clusters (e.g. Enright, 2003; Meier zu Köcker, 2008). The existing explanations are not satisfying as they tend to reject the attempts of cloning agglomeration effects as a matter of principle but ignore the billions of dollars which are spent in order to stimulate them (e.g. Bresnahan, Gambardella & Saxenian, 2001; Su & Hung, 2009). Our explanation refers to the conceptualization of top-down governance regimes, in which policymakers seemingly miss the opportunity to learn from organization science. This approach allows an improvement of governance regimes of top-down clusters and, therefore, a more efficient allocation of public subsidies.

It can be considered common knowledge in organization science, that an organization can only fulfill its tasks efficiently if the core elements of its governance regime – the assigned decision rights, the performance evaluation and the incentive system – fit to the tasks (Brickley, Smith & Zimmerman, 2004). We argue that misfits cause the observed lack of sustainability and hinder the cluster managers in fulfilling their tasks efficiently. These misfits occur because of goal ambiguity being inherent to public decision-making processes (Pandey & Rainey, 2006).