This section provides information on the current and planned cluster policy support initiatives that will be developed through the European Cluster Observatory: model demonstrator regions pilot projects, the cluster stress test tool, conceptual outlines and descriptions of what modern cluster policy comprises, notably with regard to facilitating regional structural change and the development of emerging industries.
The European Cluster Observatory is facilitating practical cluster policy-making that makes better use of the transformative power of innovation, by applying the so-called 'demonstrator approach' (The Smart Guide to Service Innovation describes the demonstrator approach in more detail and provides practical examples of tools and instruments.). This approach follows a recommendation of the Expert Panel on Service Innovation in the EU (2 MB), which suggests starting from a specific challenge, problem or opportunity of an individual region, metropolitan area or Member State, and then working back towards finding, testing and 'demonstrating' potential solutions in practice, using innovation as a key driver to stimulate entrepreneurial opportunities.
The Commission services have selected six model demonstrator regions based on an open call for expressions of interest for regions wanting to demonstrate the development and implementation of modern cluster strategies to foster entrepreneurship in emerging industries, facilitating SMEs’ access to clusters, and supporting SME internationalisation through clusters.
The European Cluster Observatory will provide advisory support to these six regions in the form of an assessment report, a regional survey, benchmarking, a peer review, and a final policy briefing. The support will be tailored to the needs of each region and its actors to address their specific challenge or opportunity through innovation and under real-life conditions. The objective is to showcase modern cluster policies in practice that aim to support emerging industries and foster economic growth.
The objective of the European Stress Test for Cluster Policy is to provide policy-makers with a preliminary analysis of whether cluster policies are geared towards improving framework conditions and supporting cross-sectoral collaboration with a view to facilitating structural change.
As such, the European Stress Test for Cluster Policy constitutes a light and quick first testing that can be used as a starting point for policy discussions on how to design better cluster policy that is anchored in the specific regional context. The results of the test do not represent a complete assessment in its own right, but sets the agenda for an exercise that requires further input, elaboration and validation.
The Stress Test is an online self-assessment tool that analyses whether the policy priorities of an existing cluster policy are addressing the most pertinent weaknesses of a regional eco-system that may hold back overall performance. By also incorporating the results of the "Regional Eco-System Scoreboard" the stress test will provide a focus for discussions on whether the orientations and types of policies are addressing the bottlenecks of a regional eco-system and whether they foster cross-sectoral collaboration.
The new Smart Guide to Cluster Policy is a practical guide targeting regional authorities and stakeholders interested in "how to make better use of clusters for promoting regional industrial modernisation, supporting the growth of SMEs and encouraging smart specialisation". It explains what cluster and cluster policies are and what they are not, what makes them successful and why they matter. It presents eight Do's and Don'ts and showcases four Smart Cluster Stories, several cluster programme examples and practical instruments implemented by regions as part of modern cluster policies.
This Guidebook is the result of the collaboration of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy and was prepared with the support of the experts of the European Cluster Observatory. The Guide was presented at the Smart Regions conference on 2 June 2016, and is the latest publication in the series of Guidebooks on supporting SME policy through structural funds. It provides input and guidance for the discussions and actions to be taken in the context of the launch of the Smart Specialisation Platform on Industrial Modernisation.