Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Cluster policy

Cluster policy

The European observatory for clusters and industrial change provides policy support to existing or emerging cluster initiatives at the national and regional level. It does so through its pilot regions in industrial transition, a cluster stress test tool and conceptual outlines and descriptions of modern cluster policy to aid regional structural change and the development of emerging industries. This space is under development, please check back regularly for the latest information.

Cluster programmes

How do European countries and regions support cluster activities? What are the main objectives, measures and target groups of cluster programmes? What do cluster policies in other parts of the world focus on? These and other questions are answered by the report 'cluster programmes in Europe and beyond'. This document investigates cluster support in 29 European countries, 49 regions in Europe, and 10 countries outside of Europe (Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA). In-depth analyses of a broad range of cluster programmes across Europe and beyond show which goals cluster programmes in different parts of the world pursue and how they are met. Overall, the report reveals that cluster policies are widespread, and that cluster support is a crucial instrument for economic development in Europe and worldwide.

Pilot regions in industrial transition

We launched the pilot action on 'regions in industrial transition' early in 2018 to help regions in an industrial transition develop new approaches to restore their growth and productivity. 8 regions and 2 small EU countries were selected to work in partnership with a teams of experts from the European Commission to boost their innovation capacity, remove investment barriers, equip workers with the right skills and prepare for industrial and societal change, based on their smart specialisation strategies. By focusing on specific challenges related to industrial transition, the pilot develops new policy tools for regions and cities to address these challenges. Through an open call for expression of interest, the following 10 regions in industrial transition received customised advice on modern cluster policy in support of industrial modernisation

  • Cantabria (Spain)
  • Centre Val de Loire (France)
  • East & North Finland
  • Hauts-de-France (France)
  • Lithuania
  • North-Middle Sweden
  • Piemonte (Italy)
  • Saxony (Germany)
  • Slovenia
  • Wallonia (Belgium)

The first phase of the pilot action on regions in industrial transition analysed existing policy instruments and identified future challenges. These regions benefited from tailored assistance from Commission experts organised in 'regional' teams from several Commission departments and from the European observatory for clusters and industrial change. In collaboration with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, the OECD organised a series of thematic peer-learning workshops from which several policy conclusions on addressing industrial transition were drawn. The summary report on modern cluster policy in regions summarises the EOCIC's work in the 10 pilot regions in industrial transition and proposes concrete policy proposals tailored to the regions’ needs. It shows clusters as a key driver for smart specialisation and how modern cluster policy can help shape regional industrial transition.

European cluster policy forum

The European cluster policy forum brings together EU countries to discuss key topics in the cluster landscape. It is a platform for discussion on how to improve the design and implementation of cluster initiatives. These meetings facilitate peer review and cluster policy learning among experts through interactive knowledge-sharing and experience.

The first meeting in February 2018, organised during the 2018 EU industry day, discussed challenges ahead and how cluster policies can effectively support industrial modernisation and growth in Europe.
The second meeting in April 2018 discussed the labelling of clusters, several projects promoting cluster manager mobility and the application of EU State aid rules.
The third meeting in November 2018 discussed how clusters and local/regional ecosystems can accelerate entrepreneurship, industrial modernisation and growth and how policies can support this process.
The fourth meeting in March 2019 discussed skills and internationalisation.

Watch the European cluster policy forum video

Smart guides on clusters

Policymakers and cluster organisations can use the guides for inspiration when designing and implementing more effective initiatives by learning from good practices across Europe.

The smart guide to entrepreneurship support through clusters helps cluster policymakers and cluster managers in designing and implementing programmes that accelerate the creation of start-ups, spin-offs and scale-ups in emerging industries and in specific value chains. This guide focuses on innovative entrepreneurship and shows how clusters can mobilise resources to effectively support entrepreneurship throughout the entire entrepreneurial life cycle. The guide shows that entrepreneurship support through clusters can be a driver of SME competitiveness, industrial modernisation and job creation. It presents 12 examples of good practices of entrepreneurship support programmes delivered through a cluster approach. There is no 'one size fits all' approach. The good practices are a mix of cluster support measures and implementation frameworks for resilient entrepreneurial ecosystems. The guide concludes by identifying 7 do’s and don'ts for effective entrepreneurship support programmes. Some of the smart guide's examples were also presented during the European cluster policy forum on 15 November 2018, which also focused on how clusters can accelerate entrepreneurship.
The smart guide to cluster policy explains how to design and run effective monitoring and evaluation systems for cluster policy. It aims at stimulating policy learning and tackles specific challenges. Monitoring and evaluation are crucial to the cluster policy process but are hardly amenable to standard monitoring and evaluation practices. This is because clusters’ material and immaterial benefits are difficult to identify and quantify and because cluster policies mobilise multiple instruments across different policies and at different levels of governance. Cluster policy, therefore, requires tailor-made monitoring and evaluation approaches capable of capturing the specificity of clusters and cluster policies.

The smart guide mainly addresses cluster policymakers and cluster managers engaged in cluster policymaking. It has concrete methodological guidance and practical indications on how to effectively monitor and evaluate cluster policies, in an easy to read format. Throughout the smart guide, numerous concrete cases of monitoring and evaluation systems and approaches from different European and extra European countries are referred to illustrate the options proposed.

The smart guide for European strategic cluster partnerships (ESCPs) helps the partnerships develop a successful strategy and determine actions to create joint projects and get investments. Therefore, the smart guide lists the main challenges and specific barriers faced by ESCPs. This relates to establishing and improving partnerships as well as to fostering innovation, cooperation and internationalisation. Considering this, the guide gives recommendations to create sustainable partnership strategies and joint activities, as well as a sample of related good practices.

Advisory support for European strategic cluster partnerships

The European observatory for clusters and industrial change (EOCIC) advises the European strategic cluster partnerships for smart specialisation investments (ESCP-S3) and the European strategic cluster partnerships for going international (ESCP-4i). The EOCIC's services include

  • networking and peer-learning opportunities between cluster partnerships, through events and webinars
  • information on recommended resources (reports, databases) and initiatives (projects, services) that could benefit the partnerships and their companies
  • support for stakeholder mapping and analysis to identify synergies, complementarities and gaps for their joint strategy and roadmap
  • development of a strategic definition paper to complement the partnership analysis by adding external relevant information on specific preselected topics
  • review of strategic documents such as the implementation roadmaps
  • one-on-one guidance in selected areas by sharing good practices and possible joint activities to facilitate interregional cooperation and joint investments

The smart guide for European strategic cluster partnerships summarises the received support. The guide lists the main challenges and specific barriers faced by ESCP. See more on the European cluster partnerships event.