Clusters - policy and structure in Europe
The concept of cluster is not a new for Europe. First definition of the cluster was provided by Alfred Marshall in 1890 in his book “principles of economics” however the term “cluster” became popular since 1990 from “competitive advantages of the nations” by Michel Porter. There are up to 2500 clusters in European countries and they play an important role in the development of country's economy. This fact is justified by the statistics provided in the report of EU Commission. As of 2019, clusters account for 39% of European jobs and 55% of wages.
What is cluster?
The European Cluster Cooperation Platform defines the cluster as follows: Clusters should be considered as a regional ecosystem of interconnected industry and activities characterized by a wide range of internal industrial interdependencies.
Clusters are groups of interconnected companies and institutions that are geographically close together and have sufficient scale to develop their own services, employee skills, and production resources.
Most clusters are not artificial connections, they originate naturally, based on geographical location.
A cluster is not a narrow sectoral union. While the term cluster refers to specific activities in a specific geographic area, it also integrates related industries and does not concentrate on narrow specialization.
White clusters are important for European countries?
In the EU, clusters are considered an important part of the industrial landscape. The role of clusters in the development of small and medium-sized businesses is especially important, as they promote cooperation and relationships between companies, increase their access to international markets and stimulate the expansion of companies. The role of clusters in the development of innovative approaches and environmentally oriented industries is also important.
What is cluster policy and who is the main implementer of this policy in European countries?
Cluster policy is a vision aimed at promoting the development of clusters. The main implementer of cluster policy in Europe is the state and this process consists of the following stages:
Development of a policy document - Often a policy is written in a specific document that does not necessarily specify the mechanisms, allocation of financial resources or responsibilities, however, it should reflect the policy objectives and justifications why it would be an important to take the actions in a particular direction.
To move to real action, the state creates specific programs that distribute funding, create organizational responsibilities, and define the conditions needed to obtain funding.
State agencies or ministries are obliged to implement the program. Program may include the main activity of the implementer or only small portion of their responsibilities.
According to the report prepared for EU Commission in 2019 the purposes of the cluster facilitating programs are the following:
Strengthening the corporation between companies/industries and research organizations/scientists
Increase competitiveness of small and medium sized businesses
support international activities
According to the same research, developing industries and technologies are the main target sectors of this programs.
Given the high level of cluster development in Europe, it will be interesting to discuss the European experience in detail. We will continue to prepare analytical and informative articles on international experience.
Author: Mariam Saldadze
The article is prepared with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and "Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme."