On 14 December, an EU4Digital networking event discussed ways to organise and manage innovative clusters and cluster-like business networks in the area of ICT Innovation, focusing on establishing better visibility and connection of clusters in the EaP region.
The virtual networking event was targeted at cluster ecosystem organisations from Eastern partner countries, to facilitate their registration to the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and deepen knowledge of clusters’ organisation and development.
Throughout the meeting, key EU organisations and ICT clusters from the EaP region presented value proposition, practical experience of cluster growth and international cooperation, as well as perspectives for the development of cluster ecosystems. Participants included:
- European Commission (DG GROW);
- European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP);
- Cluj IT Cluster (Romania);
- Precarpathian Eco-Energy Cluster (Ukraine);
- Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine;
- Kharkiv IT Cluster (Ukraine).
The event attracted around 60 participants from 44 various organisations in IT- related sectors – representatives of business and professional associations, high-tech and techno parks, ministries, public agencies and other ecosystem actors from Eastern partner countries, as well as national Harmonising Digital Market (HDM) Coordinators, EU Delegations and members of the ICT innovation Expert network.
The event included interactive sessions focusing on several aspects of clusters development and collaboration:
- Cluster policy in the context of internationalisation;
- Clusters’ visibility and collaboration with EU clusters – ECCP platform service package and registration process;
- Perspectives of EU and Eastern partner clusters organisation, development and internationalisation.
The event was opened by a moderator and EU4Digital ICT Innovation stream leader Anna Pobol, introducing the aims of the networking event, followed by a presentation on European Commission: EU pillars of cluster policy in the context of internationalisation by Mr. Christophe Guichard, Policy Officer at the European Commission (DG GROW).
Mr. Guichard emphasised that clusters have demonstrated themselves as excellent facilitators helping to adapt policy instruments to the needs and opportunities of European industry and playing a crucial role in making European ecosystem value chains more resilient. The EC supports cluster networking and internationalisation through the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, European Cluster Excellence Programme, EU ‘Cluster Go International’ action, and matchmaking events. The upcoming Euroclusters Programme (2021-2027) aims to develop value chain interlinkages in the EU single market, build capacity to increase strategic autonomy and reinforce transformation into a greener and more digital economy.
The keynote speech, European Cluster Collaboration Platform: Overview of value proposition and registration process, was led by ECCP representatives Jan Maarten de Vet, Project manager and Lucia Seel, Profile Validation Manager. The speakers highlighted benefits and services proposed by ECCP for different types of users – countries participating in the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) and non-COSME countries – and explained the process of registration and the validation criteria. They highlighted how efforts to comply with validation criteria could help national innovation-driven business networks to reflect on their achievements, enforce global visibility, and build relations in a more collaboration-oriented way. These criteria can also serve as a reference framework for innovation policy makers of Eastern partner countries to structure national cluster development and monitoring tools. A conclusion from the discussion was that more active use of ECCP services would bring significant benefits for stakeholders from Eastern partner countries such as enhanced collaborative network resulting in faster cluster development and innovation. EaP stakeholders were also invited to approach the ECCP for considering bilateral joint projects, e.g. for cluster managers capacity building. (ECCP press release: Tightening the relationship with clusters from Eastern Partnership countries).
The second session of the event was dedicated to exploring the practical experience of EU and Eastern partner cluster establishment and development. Andrei Kelemen, CEO at Cluj IT Cluster in Romania, presented the Cluj IT Cluster experience of organisation, development and international integration. The Cluj IT cluster has managed to turn into a network with more than 80 members without any government support but through active presence on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, membership at the European Digital SMEs Alliance and other international partnerships. The Cluj IT network supports the transformation of IT companies from outsourcing into value creating actors, and strengthens the innovation ecosystem through smart specialisation, structural transformation and technology transfer.
Three innovation clusters from Ukraine spoke about their experience of self-organisation and evolution.
Firstly, Olga Shapoval, Executive Director at Kharkiv IT Cluster shared how the cluster management and operation structure has been developed to address evolving challenges. The cluster was initially founded by the owners of IT companies who joined up to face the challenges of business disruption. Additional stakeholders were subsequently attracted to address specific educational challenges. Currently, B2B and community events are playing a crucial part in the development of mutually reinforcing cluster linkages.
Aleksandre Yurchak, General Director at the Association of Industrial Automation of Ukraine (AIAU), introduced the experience, progress and challenges of industrial high-tech cluster development in Ukraine. The AIAU has led projects that merge the strategies of smart specialisation and clusterisation to combine different instruments for effective innovation in Industry 4.0. For this purpose, the platform Industry4Ukraine was established bringing together industrial associations, clusters and other stakeholders. Yurchak said special policy support was needed to overcome the main challenges of high-tech cluster development – institutionalisation of cluster support organisations at state level, training and development programmes for better integration into regional policies, ecosystem development (e.g. accelerators, testbeds and Centre 4.0) and better synergy with the IT sector.
The final presentation was by Lyudmyla Shyyko, head of the Ukrainian Clusters committee and Managing Director at the Precarpathian Eco-Energy Cluster. The speaker introduced the National Programme for clusters development in Ukraine that has been elaborated due to the need for a centralised body leading towards clusters development. The cluster committee has created specific programme guidelines for sustainable clusters development in the country, which foresees activities on institutionalisation, set-up of the national quality system, networking of Ukrainian clusters and their internationalisation.
Wrapping up the event, Anna Pobol, EU4Digital ICT Innovation Lead, noted that the bottom-up and mission-oriented collaboration of IT industry stakeholders has proved to be the most efficient way of cluster organisation and development. Nevertheless, the role of the state is significant to endorse clusters as a vehicle for economic development, and to support innovation projects, as well as the internationalisation of SMEs and their integration into the global value chains. Finally, the high relevance of experience exchange among policy-makers of EU and Eastern partner countries has to be emphasised as the way for creating better cluster support policy in the EaP region.
ICT Innovation Networking events
ICT Innovation networking events aim to facilitate the establishment of Eastern partnership communities in the selected ICT Innovation policy areas. In addition to creating networks in the region, they strive for the establishment of bilateral and multilateral bridges between the Eastern partner organisations and EU stakeholders to enable further sustainable joint activities and projects. These efforts aim for overall deeper knowledge and understanding of relevant EU best practices by stakeholders in the region. Therefore, the series of events targets a wide audience, including ministerial level representatives and agencies, associations and networks of relevant policy areas, ICT Infrastructure organisations as well as other ICT Innovation ecosystem actors.
ECCP press release: Tightening the relationship with clusters from Eastern Partnership countries