Packaged to perfection: the OMNIPACK Cluster
Competitors working together for their common good.
The Region of Hradec Kralove lies in north eastern Bohemia and it has a rich industrial past. However, over the past decade, manufacturing activities throughout the region have undergone structural change. As a result, in 2005, 21 companies, involved in all aspects of the packaging industry, joined together with their suppliers and two universities to create the OMNIPACK Cluster.
The impetus for the creation of this cluster, which is based in Jaroměř (Hradec Králové), was the informal cooperation which had already developed between companies in the packaging sector. This cooperation had been driven by the need to undertake more technically challenging orders or to fulfil orders which, because of their size, required individual companies to cooperate with other firms.
The stimulus to the formation of the cluster, which now has 25 members, was a grant from the Operational Programme for Industry and Enterprise, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in the Czech Republic. PolyPLASTY, the company which received this grant from the Hradec Kralove Regional Council, carried out a mapping exercise to identify other companies in the sector and establish whether these companies were interested in joining the cluster. This also gave PolyPLASTY the opportunity to establish what information and experience each company was willing to share with other potential cluster members. In addition to the packaging companies, the University of Pardubice and the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen were approached and both are now active partners in the project.
Despite the fact that the cluster members are in commercial competition with each other, their production schedules are nevertheless often complementary. Working as a cluster has led to increased competitiveness for project members, especially the SMEs. Now, member companies can respond more quickly and efficiently to changes in market dynamics and, thanks to the cooperation with universities and research institutes, they are also fostering innovation in, and the faster development of, the use of new technologies.
The University of West Bohemia developed the basis for the organisational and legal framework of the project, whilst the University of Pardubice took on the task of educating future members. These universities cooperate to deliver seminars on topics of current interest and are involved in developing solutions to specific R&D problems and assisting the cluster to develop increasingly innovative packaging technology.
As a cluster, the companies have more negotiating power in purchasing and sales and in improving supplier-customer relationships. Because of the number of companies involved, the OMNIPACK Cluster has led to economies of scale and reduced costs in the areas of marketing and promotion. In addition, as the companies exchange knowledge and information, each of them is better able to respond to market changes and identify new opportunities within the market.
The first concrete results of the project were a joint website, the provision of consultancy services and participation in several trade fairs (e.g. Fachpack in Germany, Taropak in Poland and Emballage in France). However, the main result of the project has been the purchase of machinery for the common testing and development centre of the OMNIPACK Cluster for use by cluster members and other companies. Another interesting outcome is the Marketing and Business Portal for contacting potential cluster members and customers.
Future plans are focused on promoting the Hradec Kralove region and the neighbouring Pardubice and Vysocina regions as important packaging centres, with Cluster OMNIPACK as the leading brand, as well as on promoting innovation in the industry via stronger ties between scientific research organisations and companies within the sector.
The project has enabled members to offer each other support for export and international business development and has opened the door to the greater likelihood of further financial support from the ESF and other funding sources.