Transatlantic cluster cooperation kicks off with fruitful U.S. - EU exchange

Transatlantic cluster cooperation kicks off with fruitful U.S. - EU exchange
Published on: 09/12/2015
From 17 to 19 November 2015, 77 national and regional cluster policy-makers, experts and researchers from both the United States and the European Union gathered in Boston and Washington for a workshop to exchange experiences and best practices on cluster mapping, cluster portals and cluster-based economic development policies.

The workshop sparked rich discussions and insights into how to benchmark innovation clusters and how to get cluster policies right. It marked the beginning of efforts to intensify transatlantic cluster cooperation by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

This event was the first carried out under the EU-U.S. Cooperation Arrangement on Clusters signed in April 2015 between the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROWTH) and the United States Department of Commerce (US DoC). It was carried out with additional support, notably from the Harvard Business School, who is involved in the US Cluster Mapping initiative, and from the European Cluster Observatory.

Both the European Union and the United States were well represented with additional participants from Canada, India, Mexico, and South Korea as well as multilateral organisations (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank). European experts included representatives from the European Cluster Observatory, European Cluster Collaboration Platform, European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis and the European Foundation for Cluster Excellence, among others.

Discussions on cluster-mapping and cluster-based economic policies

While Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School kicked off the discussion on cluster mapping on the first day in Boston, moderated by Christian Ketels, the discussions on cluster-based economic policies on the last day in Washington were opened by Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Matt Erskine. In his speech, Mr. Eskine emphasized that the United States and European Union “could learn a great deal from each other as we drive the growth of our critical regional innovation and industry clusters”. He stressed the need for rebuilding industrial ecosystems, supporting regional innovation clusters and regional transformations, and addressing skills gaps.

Dan Correa, Senior Advisor on Innovation Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy highlighted that President Obama's updated Strategy for American Innovation identified policies to promote regional innovation ecosystems and clusters as part of its focus on fuelling the engine of private–sector innovation.

Carsten Schierenbeck from DG GROWTH gave an overview of the main EU cluster initiatives , including DG GROWTH's cluster initiatives for new industrial value chains towards the development of emerging industries, for cluster internationalisation and cluster excellence as well as its European Cluster Observatory. He emphasised the challenge is to maintain the innovative potential by building linkages and engaging in diversification efforts across different sectors. Marzena Rogalska from DG GROWTH further highlighted the wider EU policy-making context and the different roles that clusters can play to tackle societal and emerging challenges and opportunities such as Big Data, the Environmental footprint and the Circular Economy.

Presentations on successful cluster policies

Further presentations from U.S. and EU States and regional efforts gave a broader insight into successful cluster policies and their evaluations. These included presentations from Massachusetts, New Orleans and South Carolina from the U.S. side and on the EU side, they covered the French Pôles de compétitivité programme, the German leading-edge cluster competition and Denmark's cluster policy as well as regional cluster policies from the Basque country, Hamburg and Wallonia.

The workshop concluded with an open session that gathered the collective insights and generated common conclusions. First, cluster mapping has advanced substantially both in Europe and the United States and has become a critical input to policy decisions, while there are opportunities to offer greater cluster mapping capabilities at the local and regional level as a tool for local and regional policy makers. Second, cluster mapping portals experience a significant amount of users from outside the United States and Europe. This is a strong indicator of the potential value of these portals as a tool for trade and investment strategies across countries. Third, there is a clear need to establish stronger linkages between the mapping of industrial clusters and the mapping of cluster organisations in portals to facilitate cluster collaboration, e.g. by providing more details on the industrial, technological and specialisation areas, especially to facilitate the partnering of cluster organisations across sectors.

Next steps

In the closing of the workshop, Tshanda Kalombo from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Carsten Schierenbeck from the European Commission's DG GROWTH reiterated their commitment to continue transatlantic cluster cooperation by pointing already to the next step with the planned organisation of an EU-U.S. cluster matchmaking event at the occasion of the Hannover Fair in April 2016.

Further documents related to the workshop (all are available on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform):

• A longer summary of the discussions can be found in the workshop report at the European Cluster Collaboration Platform website
Announcement note
PowerPoint presentations
EU-U.S. Cooperation Arrangement on Clusters

Relevant contacts

Christophe Guichard, European Commission, DG Growth:

Tshanda Kalombo, U.S. International Trade Administration: