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Europe’s most extensive cluster benchmarking presented in Copenhagen

  • Published 30/05/2011
  • Author Páll Tómas Finnsson
15 national and regional innovation programmes and 143 cluster managements have been benchmarked in the Nordic-German-Polish Cluster Excellence Project, mapping cluster performance in seven countries.

Internationalisation a key issue for clusters

The Nordic-German-Polish Cluster Excellence Project aims to promote experience exchange and identify best practice examples of how clusters can increase their international collaboration and networking efforts.

- Impact assessment shows that enterprises engaged in international collaboration develop more positively with regards to several indicators, such as employment, export and productivity pr. employee, says Thomas Alslev Christensen, head of department for innovation policy in the Danish ministry of science, technology and innovation.

 

Quality clusters in the Nordics, Germany and Poland

The project was initiated as part of the Danish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2010.

- We started the project because most countries face the same challenges on how to internationalise clusters and cluster organisations. We knew that there were excellent cluster policies in Germany and Poland and were convinced that all the countries involved would benefit from the collaboration, Christensen explains.

To get a comprehensive idea of the cluster environment in the seven countries, two different benchmarking exercises have been conducted, one focusing on cluster management and the other on cluster policy.

 

Comparison improves competence

The cluster benchmarking was based on an indicator system already developed by Kompetenznetze Deutschland, a programme that supports around 100 of the best German clusters. The system has been used in Germany for several years, but has now also been applied to clusters in the Nordic countries and in Poland. A total of 143 cluster organisations participated in the benchmarking exercise.

- Our benchmarking efforts started in 2009 with some statistical analysis and were later expanded on demand of the cluster managers. They were interested in comparing their service spectrum and management methods to others, both nationally and internationally, says Dr. Gerd Meier zu Köcker, manager of Kompetenznetze Deutschland.

- We therefore set up a system of 35 benchmarking indicators, which analysed all relevant cluster management activities, including structure, financing, internationalisation and services, says Meier zu Köcker.

According to Meier zu Köcker, the results will allow cluster managers to improve their competences through comparison and best practice examples.

 - We have heard a lot of success stories, where cluster managers and initiatives have provided considerable added value to the companies. Each of the countries operates with interesting features that can be implemented elsewhere, he continues.

 

Internationally recognised policy indicators

The indicator set for the cluster policy benchmarking was developed especially for the occasion by the Danish ministry of science, technology and innovation and Kompetenznetze Deutschland.

- From my point of view, the most important aspect of the policy benchmarking is that for the first time, seven different countries have agreed on the same indicators. Normally, each country has its own quality indicators, often very policy driven, but now we have an indicator set that is internationally recognised, says Meier zu Köcker.

According to Christensen, the benchmarking exercise has provided valuable knowledge on how cluster policies in the countries can be improved.

- This is the first time we compare 15 different national and regional innovation programmes on cluster policies. This has resulted in a lot of new information and recommendations on how cluster policies and cluster performance can be improved, for the benefit of the companies and research institutions. The findings have aroused considerable interest, not only from the Nordics, Germany and Poland, but also from other countries, says Christensen.

 

Selected statistics - cluster benchmarking

  • A total of 143 clusters participated in the cluster benchmarking exercise.
  • 55 of those are from Germany, 20 from Poland, 67 from the Nordics and one from Austria.
  • The participating clusters come from all types of industries and technology areas.
  • 21 of the clusters work with energy and environment and 19 are from the information and communication sector.
  • 17 are occupied with production and engineering and 14 with micro, nano and optical technologies.
  • The food industry is represented by 11 clusters and health and medical science by 10.
  • Danish clusters tend to be more research driven than clusters in the other countries. Norwegian clusters are among the most specialised in the project.
  • There is a large variation in cluster structure, governance and results between technology fields.
  • Research driven clusters are more similar to industry driven clusters than widely believed.
  • All data was gathered through face-to-face interviews.
  • 35 comparison indicators were used to measure cluster performance.
  • The Management Agency of Kompetenznetze Deutschland (VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH) conducted the benchmarking exercise, supported by local interviewers in each country.
  • Results will be presented in further detail at the NGP Cluster Excellence Conference.