The NGP Cluster Excellence Conference gathers cluster managers and cluster policy makers from all over Europe, discussing how clusters can be supported in their internationalisation efforts.
Clusters must provide clear benefits
Dr. Rolf Bommer from the Bavarian Ministry of Economics manages Cluster Offensive Bayern, a programme counting 19 clusters and over 5000 companies.
- A good cluster project is one that clearly demonstrates the benefit for the companies and does something they could not have achieved alone. Secondly, its method ought to be transferable to other projects. It is very much a matter of best practice, Bommer explains.
Surveys show that over 60% of the companies in Cluster Offensive Bayern have established new contacts through the clusters, and a third of them state that cluster participation has directly improved their market position.
- This shows that clustering can offer enormous benefits to the companies, says Bommer.
Benchmarking reveals common challenges
Before entering into the collaboration with Germany and the Nordics, Poland conducted a national benchmarking of Polish cluster development, registering 47 clusters and a large number of cluster initiatives.
- The benchmarking shows us that we face common problems and challenges, even though the countries have different approaches and rules within their programmes, says Joanna Podgórska, representing the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development.
Common indicators for reliable evaluation
For Rolf Bommer, the development of common benchmarking indicators to measure and compare cluster performance is among the most valuable results from the Nordic-German-Polish Cluster Excellence Project.
- It is important that we find indicators that accurately measure the effects of the clusters and allow for reliable evaluation of the approaches and methods used in the different countries, he says.
Bommer identifies financing models and the mixture of public and private funding of clusters as an area where comparison will be particularly useful.
- For us, it is interesting to look at best practice examples of cluster financing and of helping the clusters to acquire private money and thereby reduce the need for public funding, Bommer says.
Internationalisation increases knowledge and improves services
Podgórska and Bommer agree that internationalisation of clusters is a main priority when it comes to market position and competence development.
- Internationalisation is important because the competition is not local, regional or even national, it is global. The participation in the NGP Cluster Excellence Project improves our assessment of what clusters and cluster SMEs need in order to go international. It will increase our knowledge on necessary framework conditions and allow us to prepare better programmes and projects to foster international cluster cooperation, says Podgórska.