The European Cluster Observatory is a single access point for statistical information, analysis and mapping of clusters and cluster policy in Europe. It is primarily aimed at European, national, regional and local policy-makers and cluster managers and representatives of SME intermediaries. It is an initiative run by the ‘Clusters, Social Economy and Entrepreneurship’ unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs and aims to promote the development of more world-class clusters in Europe, notably with a view to promoting competitiveness and entrepreneurship in emerging industries and facilitating SMEs’ access to clusters and internationalisation activities through clusters. The ultimate objective is to help Member States and regions to design smart specialisation and cluster strategies that will help companies to develop new, globally competitive advantages in emerging industries through clusters, and in this way to strengthen the role of cluster policies in boosting Europe’s industry as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

More information about the European Cluster Observatory is available at the EU cluster portal at: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/policy/cluster/observatory_en.

Introduction

The Self-Assessment Tool for a “European Stress Test for Cluster Policy” offers a preliminary analysis of whether cluster policies are geared towards improving framework conditions and supporting cross-sectoral cluster collaboration with a view to facilitating structural change and the development of emerging industries.

Modern cluster policy should follow a systemic approach that integrates different policies and programmes under a joint strategy, as championed by the smart specialisation approach. In this sense, cluster policy is to be seen as a strategic framework policy that goes far beyond merely offering support for networking activities and setting up cluster organisations that manage networking activities among companies. It requires to break out of “policy silo-patterns” overcoming sectoral, regional and departmental silos which promote vertical measures (that e. g. target only one industrial sector and neglect the potential that develops from cross-sectoral collaboration) by horizontally integrating with other “policy silos” through the development and implementation of joint measures under a joint strategy.

The tool allows to spot possible disparities between the weaknesses of individual parts of the regional eco-system as identified by the Regional Ecosystem Scoreboard, the priorities of your regional policy and the extent to which these individual policy orientations may be perceived as elements of good cluster policy.

The tool consists of two sets of questions:

  1. The first set of questions asks questions on the regional policy priorities to establish whether your regional policy already follows a “systemic approach” in terms of to which extent policies and programmes promote cluster development through vertical measures and horizontal integration.
  2. The second set of questions has a specific focus on cluster policy by analysing to which extent it meets the characteristic of good cluster policy in terms of analysis, strategy and action.

Definitions

Clusters are important both as the building blocks of designing smart specialisation strategies and as a means for implementing these strategies.

  • Clusters are understood as regional ecosystems of related industries represented through a group of firms, related economic actors and institutions that are located near each other and have reached a sufficient scale to develop specialised expertise etc.
  • Cluster initiatives are organised efforts to support the competitiveness of a cluster and thus consist of practical actions related to the capacity of these clusters to self-organise and increasingly to pro-actively shape the future of the cluster. They usually follow a bottom-up approach, are implemented through a competitive process, and are often managed by specialised intermediaries, such as cluster organisations.
  • Cluster organisations are the legal entities that support the strengthening of collaboration, networking and learning in clusters, and act as innovation support providers by providing or channelling specialised and customised business support services to stimulate innovation activities, especially in SMEs. They are usually the actors that facilitate strategic partnering across clusters.
  • Emerging industries can be understood as either new industrial sectors or existing industrial sectors that are evolving or merging into new industries. They are defined as “the establishment of an entirely new industrial value chain, or the radical reconfiguration of an existing one, driven by a disruptive idea (or convergence of ideas), leading to turning these ideas / opportunities into new products / services with higher added value”.

Cluster-based economic development through the support of emerging industries is a comprehensive approach to directing government policies towards creating the foundations for growth and prosperity. The alignment between modern cluster policies and smart specialisation strategies for innovation will allow countries and regions to further sharpen their strategic focus in order to drive economic and industrial transformation and competitive advantage in their priority areas. Therefore, the policy approach needs to combine different instruments and tools and both ensure that the country or region is strategically positioned in international value chains and facilitate innovation-driven diversification and the development of future strengths.

Begin the questionnaire

Question set 1: Regional policy priorities

1.1. Dimension: Entrepreneurial conditions

Regulatory framework for starting a business

Entrepreneurial culture

Attractiveness of the region and quality of infrastructure

1.2. Dimension: Knowledge basis and skills

Human resources

Vocational training and lifelong learning

Skills

1.3. Dimension: Collaboration and internationalisation

General system linkages

Cross-sectoral linkages

Specialisation

Openness of the region

1.4. Dimension: Access to finance

Attitudes of regional investors and private financing

Legal framework supporting access to finance

Availability of funds from public sector

Support from European Structural Funds

1.5. Dimension: Demand conditions

Private demand

Public demand

1.6. Dimension: Quality of governance

Quality of regulatory environment

Question set 2: Level of good cluster policy

2.1. General questions

Do you have a cluster policy in your region?

Is your regional cluster policy codified in a formal policy document?

2.2. Analysis: Understanding the regional potential for cluster development

Identification of target areas for cluster policy

National and European Benchmarking

Participation of regional stakeholders

2.3 Strategy: Selecting priority fields and activities

Sectors and vertical priorities

Current strength and growth potential

Review and refinement of priorities

2.4 Action: translating strategy into action

Instruments of cluster policy

Integration into other relevant programmes

Target of support