In this article we consider the nature and implications of barriers to collaborative process learning that may occur in regional clusters. Our approach is rooted in research in interorganizational collaboration and focuses on interview-based research in photonics clusters in: Scotland and the West Midlands in the United Kingdom; Berlin-Brandenburg in Germany; and Arizona in the United States of America. From this research we develop characterizations of the barriers to collaborative process learning in clusters at three levels of analysis—the macro, micro and meso levels. We also develop an integrated conceptualization of these barriers, which reveals a difficult tension between ‘authority’ and ‘anomie’. This tension has implications for the management of process learning, but also connects with recent debate about whether learning is most helpfully understood as an individual or collective process.
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