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Results from the Evaluation of European cluster 
initiatives managed by DG Enterprise and 
Industry 
Workshop: Moving forw...
2 
Agenda 
1. Overview of the evaluation 
2. Methodological framework 
3. Key findings 
4. Conclusions and recommendations
Objectives of the evaluation 
• Objectives : Assess the effectiveness of ECI in supporting clusters 
and ultimately the im...
Scope of the evaluation was cluster excellence and cluster 
internationalisation initiatives 
• The evaluation assessed 14...
5 
Agenda 
1. Overview of the evaluation 
2. Methodological framework 
3. Key findings 
4. Conclusions and recommendations
Data collection and analysis techniques 
6
Key figures of the evaluation 
• 60 interviews with: 
• ECI project coordinators and 
partners; 
• Non participant cluster...
8 
Agenda 
1. Overview of the evaluation 
2. Methodological framework 
3. Key findings 
4. Conclusions and recommendations
The survey suggests that many cluster organisations are 
still relatively young and in a development phase 
70 % of cluste...
Cluster organisations surveyed focus their strategies 
towards SMEs 
To what extent is the strategy of your cluster organi...
Cluster organisations consider the ECI to be relevant to 
member SMEs 
11 
How relevant is the initiative in supporting SM...
Cluster excellence goal is widely accepted and is increasingly 
a core element of national/regional cluster programmes 
“C...
Cluster initiatives have contributed to increase the skills, 
capacities and knowledge of cluster managers 
• Cluster exce...
Yet cluster excellence initiatives had only a limited impact 
on the sophistication/range of services to SMEs. 
• Limited ...
The direct contribution of the ECI to SME competitiveness is limited 
and difficult to trace…but beneficiary SMEs report a...
SMEs have gained access to new partners and markets 
16
47% of cluster organisations considered that ECI were 
effective in fostering SME competitiveness 
17 
How effective is th...
ECI addressed specific needs - not supported by other 
(national) cluster support programmes 
18 
Do you consider the supp...
19 
Agenda 
1. Overview of the evaluation 
2. Methodological framework 
3. Key findings 
4. Conclusions and recommendation...
Recommendation 1: The European cluster initiatives should be 
aligned with, and contribute strategically to, the European ...
Recommendation 2: Foster a more coherent strategic dialogue and 
co-operation with national and regional and national/ reg...
Recommendation 3: Maintain support for cluster excellence 
initiatives but focus on enhancing the range and sophistication...
Recommendation 4: Cluster internationalisation projects should be 
placed on a longer-term and more strategic footing in o...
Recommendation 5: Reinforce and simplify the ECI platform 
(ESCA, ECCP and EFCE) to ensure a better coordination among the...
Recommendation 6: Ensure a more professional management of 
ECI, reinforcing project monitoring and the dissemination of r...
26 
Thank you 
Alasdair Reid, Project Director: 
alasdair.reid@technopolis-group.com 
Flora Giarracca, Project Manager: 
f...
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Evaluation of European Cluster Initiatives by Technopolis Group

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This presentation summarises the findings and recommendations of an evaluation of European cluster initiatives (ECI) managed by the European Commission, Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR), unit D5 - Clusters and Support for SMEs. The evaluation was conducted between December 2013 and May 2014, under the Framework Service Contract ENTR/172/PP/2012/FC/LOT 4. Technopolis Group coordinated the study with the support of EY, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and associated experts.

The evaluation was asked to focus on the impact of the ECI on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to identify what proved useful and why. The findings are intended to inform a future round of ECI in order to support business development and innovation more directly. With this in mind, the evaluation team was asked to develop an indicator framework to help capture the impact of the ECI on SMEs and the efficiency of cluster organisations in delivering services to SMEs.

The evaluation assessed 14 ECI projects awarded a grant by DG ENTR, during the period November 2011 to December 2014, via two streams of activity
• Cluster excellence for better business support;
• International cluster cooperation.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit

Evaluation of European Cluster Initiatives by Technopolis Group

  1. 1. Results from the Evaluation of European cluster initiatives managed by DG Enterprise and Industry Workshop: Moving forward the EU policy agenda on cluster excellence Brussels, 23 September 2014 Alasdair Reid, Technopolis Group
  2. 2. 2 Agenda 1. Overview of the evaluation 2. Methodological framework 3. Key findings 4. Conclusions and recommendations
  3. 3. Objectives of the evaluation • Objectives : Assess the effectiveness of ECI in supporting clusters and ultimately the impact on their constituent SMEs • The findings are intended to inform a future round of ECI in order to support more directly business development and innovation. • The evaluation team was asked to develop an indicator framework to help capture the impact of the ECI on SMEs and the efficiency of cluster organisations in delivering services to SMEs. • Duration: December 2013- July 2014 • Evaluation team: Technopolis Group, EY and DTI 3
  4. 4. Scope of the evaluation was cluster excellence and cluster internationalisation initiatives • The evaluation assessed 14 European Cluster Initiatives projects awarded a grant by DG ENTR, during the period November 2011 to December 2014, via two streams of activity • Cluster excellence for better business support 1. European Foundation for Cluster Excellence (EFCE) 2. European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) mandated by ECEI to organise the cluster benchmarking and quality labelling process 3. 4 pilot projects of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative (ECEI) • International cluster cooperation 1. European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) 2. Cluster matchmaking missions 3. 6 pilot European cluster partnerships working together to develop joint international strategies toward specific third countries 4
  5. 5. 5 Agenda 1. Overview of the evaluation 2. Methodological framework 3. Key findings 4. Conclusions and recommendations
  6. 6. Data collection and analysis techniques 6
  7. 7. Key figures of the evaluation • 60 interviews with: • ECI project coordinators and partners; • Non participant cluster organisations • National cluster programme managers and cluster policy experts. • 19 case studies were undertaken covering a representative range of ECI project types and focusing on SME impact • 5 leading experts participated to a validation workshop 7 • Survey of cluster organisations: • 313 valid responses were received – 53% from participant and beneficiaries clusters and 47% from non beneficiaries • Survey of SMEs: • 134 SMEs responded - it proved difficult to persuade SMEs to participate to both the survey and the case studies
  8. 8. 8 Agenda 1. Overview of the evaluation 2. Methodological framework 3. Key findings 4. Conclusions and recommendations
  9. 9. The survey suggests that many cluster organisations are still relatively young and in a development phase 70 % of cluster organisations having answered the survey were created 2005-2014 (n=310) <1990 1990 - 1994 1995 - 1999 2000 - 2004 2005 - 2009 2010 - 2014 9 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0 Number of cluster organisations 6 3 30 54 142 74
  10. 10. Cluster organisations surveyed focus their strategies towards SMEs To what extent is the strategy of your cluster organisation 10 focused on supporting SMEs? (n=312) Not focused 6 Partially focused 38 Largely focused 154 We do not differentiate between SME and non-SME members Entirely focused 65 59 We do not provide support to SMEs 3 SMEs account for more than 50% of membership for 82% of the beneficiary cluster organisations having answered the survey (n=166) 0% of members are SMEs, 1% 10% - 25% of members are SMEs, 5% 26% - 50% of members are SMEs, 11% 51% - 75% of members are SMEs, 44% 76% - 100% of members are SMEs, 38%
  11. 11. Cluster organisations consider the ECI to be relevant to member SMEs 11 How relevant is the initiative in supporting SMEs to achieve their objectives listed below? (n=223) 21% 13% 13% 34% 35% 43% 40% 40% 28% 6% 11% 9% 2% 2% 2% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Increase internationalisation oppoprtunities for SMEs Increase innovation capacity for SMEs Increase competitiveness for SMEs Very relevant Relevant Neutral Irrelevant Very irrelevant
  12. 12. Cluster excellence goal is widely accepted and is increasingly a core element of national/regional cluster programmes “Cluster management is quite a novel topic. Most of the people I know in my circle are still struggling how to manage a cluster efficiently. There is a need for accumulated knowledge on what is the basis of cluster management and how do you become very good at that.” Source: Abstract from an interview with a non ECI participant cluster. 12
  13. 13. Cluster initiatives have contributed to increase the skills, capacities and knowledge of cluster managers • Cluster excellence initiatives have led to: • Increased awareness of good cluster management techniques; • Improved skills, capacities and knowledge of cluster managers; • Increased legitimacy of cluster organisations to be active in new support areas; • Somewhat improved cluster visibility and profile through the labels. • There has been transfer and appropriation of cluster excellence tools and methods developed by the cluster excellence initiatives into national and regional policy support. 13 A cluster (which participated in a cluster excellence pilot project) noted that they had benefited from increased membership (approx. 10% growth) following the benchmarking exercise.
  14. 14. Yet cluster excellence initiatives had only a limited impact on the sophistication/range of services to SMEs. • Limited evidence of new support services for SMEs created as a result of ECI from interviews and case studies. • Limitations in the survey results made it hard to reach robust and corroborating results for beneficiary SMEs: 14 47% 52% 24% 24% 29% 24% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Quality Quantity Has there been any evolution in terms of the number/ quality of business performance services offered by your cluster over the past three years? (n=46) Increased Remained the same Decreased Not applicable
  15. 15. The direct contribution of the ECI to SME competitiveness is limited and difficult to trace…but beneficiary SMEs report a range of impacts on their activity! 15 20% 13% 11% 16% 18% 22% 29% 42% 40% 45% 44% 45% 27% 25% 27% 22% 13% 29% Impacts on activities and performance (n=55) 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Development of long- term collaborations with strategic international partners (beyond the cluster) Contributed to an increase in competiveness Facilitated access to key infrastructures Facilitated access to new technologies, products, services, processes Facilitated access to knowledge, research and innovative competences Beneficiary SMEs Impacts on internationalisation and visibility (n=55) 15% 11% 22% 20% 24% 5% 49% 36% 39% 31% 15% 28% 28% 13% 24% 35% 44% 33% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Facilitated access to new public national, regional or European funding Facilitated access to new finance from venture capital funds Raised my company’s access to new markets and changes in global value- chains positioning Increased my company’s awareness of the importance of internationalisation for the development of our activities Improved our knowledge of business opportunities in international markets Increased our visibility on the national, European and international scene Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree Not Applicable
  16. 16. SMEs have gained access to new partners and markets 16
  17. 17. 47% of cluster organisations considered that ECI were effective in fostering SME competitiveness 17 How effective is the initiative in fostering competitiveness and services to 6% 41% support SMEs? (n=213) 44% 7% 2% 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Very Effective Effective Neutral Ineffective Very Ineffective However, a better follow-up, articulation and communication of cluster initiatives is required in order to secure wider, long-term impact on SMEs!
  18. 18. ECI addressed specific needs - not supported by other (national) cluster support programmes 18 Do you consider the support provided by DG Enterprise and Industry at EU level to add value for your SME members compared to the support available at regional or national Yes, a lot of added value, 20% Yes, quite some added value, 31% No opinion, 10% No, 7% Yes, a little added value, 15% I don't know, 17% level? (n=165) Added value of the EU Bronze Label for a Polish cluster (Interizon): • Very limited experience of clustering in Poland; hence the benchmarking exercise has increased the cluster’s awareness of the importance and potential benefits of good cluster management. • SME members have gained in credibility and recognition (e.g. towards clients in the public sector) Source: Case studies drafted within the framewrk of the evaluation.
  19. 19. 19 Agenda 1. Overview of the evaluation 2. Methodological framework 3. Key findings 4. Conclusions and recommendations
  20. 20. Recommendation 1: The European cluster initiatives should be aligned with, and contribute strategically to, the European Commission’s industrial policy priorities Conclusions • The ECI pursued a general aim to support SME development through cluster policy. • The specific ECI projects were selected on a ‘broad-brush basis’ that was insufficiently linked to existing or emerging European industrial policy priorities. • A proliferation of CIP, FP7 and Interreg IV funded projects contributed to blurring the lines between the objectives pursued by the different initiatives, and did not lead to the development of long term sustainable cluster co-operation. Specific recommendations • Future ECI should foster the emergence of meta-clusters in specific key technologies or emerging sectors of European importance. • ECI meta-clusters should combine clusters from 4-5 Member States structuring complementary business, technological and market know-how. • Meta-clusters must sustain co-operation post ECI project funding. • A key selection criterion should be the extent to which an ECI project helps cluster organisations develop new services to SMEs exploit opportunities in such fields. 20
  21. 21. Recommendation 2: Foster a more coherent strategic dialogue and co-operation with national and regional and national/ regional cluster programme managers. Conclusions • The ECI could have been more closely aligned with national and regional cluster policies in order to optimise the value added of the EU intervention. • The ECI linkages to macro-regional (eg Baltic Sea Region) cluster policies could have been exploited more systematically. • A closer involvement of national/ regional agencies in European cluster policy would increase the cross-fertilisation of ideas for the design and implementation of cluster initiatives. Specific recommendations • ECI projects should explicitly aim to support the implementation of smart specialisation strategies. • National and regional cluster programme management authorities should be associated to the ECI projects so as to integrate learning and results into their programmes and policies • A Cluster Policy Group should be created to mobilise national/ regional stakeholders to support joint actions by clusters after the end of ECI projects. 21
  22. 22. Recommendation 3: Maintain support for cluster excellence initiatives but focus on enhancing the range and sophistication of services provided by cluster organisations to SMEs. Conclusions • The cluster excellence label is an important asset to be capitalised upon - unique to Europe and with significant spill-over effects to national policies. • However, the increasing number of Bronze label clusters may devalue the quality label over time. • There is little evidence of a significant impact of the ECI, including the ESCA label, on the development of more advanced services provided by cluster organisations to SMEs. Specific recommendations • Cluster organisations should hold at least the Bronze label to qualify for EU funding (COSME, Horizon 2020). • The Bronze label should be a minimum selection criterion for cluster policy measures funded through the European Structural and Investment Funds. • ESCA benchmarking should be focused on services offered by the cluster and identify gaps in services useful to cluster members (SMEs). • A more progressive approach should be instigated with the creation of a Silver label. 22
  23. 23. Recommendation 4: Cluster internationalisation projects should be placed on a longer-term and more strategic footing in order to maximise the likelihood of impact on businesses. Conclusions • The cluster internationalisation pilot projects succeeded in creating structured co-operation amongst cluster organisations. • The cluster-to-cluster co-operation model is a good basis for SMEs to identify opportunities for exports, joint ventures, etc. • The financial resources were insufficient to support SMEs long enough to exploit contacts. • The ECI internationalisation projects should focus on accelerating the market penetration of EU clusters in lead product/service markets. Specific recommendations • ECI internationalisation projects should accelerate the global market penetration of European clusters in emerging industries, key technologies or specific strategic fields. • The strategic analysis underpinning the ECI internationalisation projects should be reinforced. • Funding should be focused on cluster partnerships that can mobilise additional public-private co-financing. 23
  24. 24. Recommendation 5: Reinforce and simplify the ECI platform (ESCA, ECCP and EFCE) to ensure a better coordination among the initiatives. Conclusions • Synergies between the ECI projects are underexploited – with limited opportunities for inter-project exchange and learning. • The three ECI platforms, (ESCA, EFCE and ECCP), duplicated data and activities and lacked a co-ordinated approach to supporting clusters. • The ECCP, in particular, has not supported effectively a strategic focusing of internationalisation activities and match-making. Specific recommendations • A single umbrella platform should be set up to harmonise cluster information and improve communication on ECI activities. • The platform should support a more strategic vision for the ECI: pre-identifying meta-clusters or smart specialisation platform themes. • ESCA to remain an independent certification body, but the benchmarking data should support service development. • The synergies between the training, benchmarking & internationalisation activities should be reinforced. 24
  25. 25. Recommendation 6: Ensure a more professional management of ECI, reinforcing project monitoring and the dissemination of results. Conclusions • The evaluation found evidence of inefficiencies in the management and implementation of projects, which reduced the potential impact. • Stakeholders have difficulty understanding the overall architecture of the ECI and the added value for SMEs compared with other similar types of cluster support. • The review of indicators and monitoring practices suggests that more could be done to assess on an on-going basis the outcomes and impacts of cluster policies on SMEs. Specific recommendations • The administrative burden on participants and coordinators should be reduced, with more flexibility in the implementation of projects. • Examples of success stories should be regularly produced & disseminated (e.g. the evaluation case studies). • Cluster managers should develop better monitoring methods and indicators, including by using the ESCA benchmarking data. • Tracking of results and impacts should be improved in future ECI calls by adopting the indicator framework developed by the evaluation. 25
  26. 26. 26 Thank you Alasdair Reid, Project Director: alasdair.reid@technopolis-group.com Flora Giarracca, Project Manager: flora.giarracca@technopolis-group.com technopolis |group| has offices in Amsterdam, Brighton, Brussels, Frankfurt/Main, Paris, Stockholm, Tallinn and Vienna

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