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NGP Cluster Excellence culminates in Copenhagen

Dr. Gerd Meier zu Köcker, Manager of the Institut für Innovation + Technik, VDI/VDE-IT presents key results from the cluster benchmark during the conference
  • Published 03/06/2011
  • Author Páll Tómas Finnsson
The programme was packed at the NGP Cluster Excellence Conference 2011, held in Øksnehallen in Copenhagen on May 26-27. Results from Europe’s most extensive cluster benchmarking were introduced and the NGP Cluster Excellence Award presented. Workshops and discussion panels provided dynamic debate on how European clusters can attain managerial excellence.

Successful cluster collaboration in Northern Europe

The conference was the culmination of the Nordic-German-Polish Cluster Excellence Project, exploring how cluster performance can be optimised through benchmarking and mutual learning. The clusters and networks involved in the project provide services to over 45,000 enterprises.

 

- We in the Nordic countries believe that national clusters are important, but we also believe that international cooperation is a major key to economic progress. The NGP Cluster Excellence Project can contribute to making our policies smarter and our networks and clusters more efficient, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Halldór Ásgrímsson, said in his opening address.

 

More then 450 participants from 27 countries attended the conference, which was entertainingly moderated by BBC host Quentin Cooper. It was organised by the Danish Agency of Science, Technology and Innovation and Nordic Innovation. The programme featured a large variety of presentations and workshops for both policy makers and cluster managers, speed dating for cluster and network managers and debates on the future perspectives of European cluster policies.

 

Valuable statistics on cluster structure, activities and impact

The majority of the discussions at the conference evolved around results from two large benchmarking exercises, conducted within the NGP Cluster Excellence Project. 18 cluster programmes and 143 cluster managements from 10 countries were benchmarked, producing statistics on the relation between cluster structure, funding and activities and their impact on the companies involved.

 

- With their involvement, the cluster managers have taken the first step of committing to cluster excellence. If you are willing to compare yourself to others, you are interested in cluster management excellence, said Dr. Gerd Meier zu Köcker, manager of Kompetenznetze Deutschland that conducted the benchmarking.

 

Some of the key points he extracted from the cluster management benchmarking were larger similarities between research driven and industrially driven clusters than expected, and that support and services need to be carefully adapted to the clusters’ technical domain. One of the most prevailing impact determinants is the service intensity level, with the most significant impact coming from active cluster managements providing tailor-made services to their clusters.

 

Furthermore, the impact was evaluated with regards to public and private funding ratio, cluster size and age and regional focus.

 

Long-term cluster policies needed

The main results from the cluster policy benchmarking were presented by Thomas Alslev Christensen from the Danish Agency of Science, Technology and Innovation, who chaired the NGP Cluster Excellence Project.

 

He put emphasis on the importance of integrating cluster policies in European innovation strategies and ensuring long-term financing and flexible funding schemes for the clusters. According to Christensen, internationalisation, knowledge sharing and evaluation of cluster management excellence are central issues for policy makers and cluster programme owners in Europe.

 

- Cluster and network policies are of a great significance to the economy, but at the same time, our analysis shows that we are all at the initial stages of forming these policies. We therefore need mutual support and knowledge sharing to further improve them, Christensen explained.

 

Methodology and cluster declaration to inspire Europe

To promote the most important results and recommendations achieved through the NGP Cluster Excellence Project, the Copenhagen Cluster Declaration was drafted at the conference.

 

Further to the main results from the benchmarking exercises, the declaration included input from the conference’s panel discussions and numerous workshops, and last but not least, remarks and suggestions from the attending cluster managers and policy makers were taken into account.

 

Reinhard Büscher, representing the European Commission at the conference, pointed towards the benchmarking system as the most important result of the NGP Cluster Excellence Project in a European context.

- The main lesson to be learnt is that there is a robust methodology in place that allows us to benchmark cluster excellence. Cluster managers from all over Europe should use this methodology in order to find out their strengths and weaknesses and raise the level of managerial excellence, he concluded.

 

Norwegian maritime cluster wins NGP Cluster Excellence Award

A large number of cluster success stories emerged in the benchmarking exercises. To promote these, the initial NGP Cluster Excellence Award was handed out at the conference.

 

65 clusters were originally nominated for the award for their outstanding initiatives in cluster management and 24 of these were selected for publication in a booklet on cluster excellence. Followingly, seven finalists were given the opportunity to present their initiatives at the NGP Cluster Excellence Conference. The winner was decided by a text message vote by the conference attendees.

 

The prize went to Norwegian Centre of Expertise – Maritime for its so-called internationalization packages, directed towards SMEs in an advanced marine operation cluster based on the West coast of Norway. Asked why he thought the organisation had won the award, director Per Erik Dalen said he hoped it was because of the initiative’s focus on creating results for the companies.

 

- At the end of the day, what is most important is creating business, expanding the cluster and expanding the market, Dalen said after receiving the award.

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