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Within the New Members States (NMS) clusters were relatively new instruments in comparison with the former EU15 countries. Recently in a lot of NMS across the Central Europe area, the clusters facilitation or cluster service development has been co-financed by structural funding schemes. The project was meant to follow and shape these activities. The project implementation was divided into three phases:
Launching phase & Preparation of the management structures
Preparation of tools and research & Exchange of experience (analytical part)
Cooperation between clusters & Creation of meta-clusters (practical part)
The analytical part was focused on gathering and analyzing data related to clusters. The complex data set was summarized in the benchmarking study which provided a big picture of clusters environment in Central Europe (CE) regions with comprehensive and comparable information. It included basic features, needs, interests and services, the foundation of common cluster strategies and summarization of relevant national and regional policy initiatives. The study became the basis for recommendations for cluster development and facilitation. The Benchmarking study allowed for the identification of six most perspective industries for the eventual meta-cluster emergence. However, as the project foresaw only five sectors for further consideration, the list had to be cut leaving five most promising sectors:ICT
energy and environment
For each sector, a working group was established in order to assure effective implementation of the exchange activities and further analysis of the meta-clustering potential.
The key target groups met at a transnational conference held in Milan in 2011 which represented start-up of the clusters cooperation and exchanges at the same time. Cluster representatives were given a floor to present their expectations, concerning the internationalization and meta-cluster build-up.
There were five exchange fora accompanied by thematic study visits. Cluster managers and cluster members defined their common interests and shaped future cooperation under the auspices of CLUSTERS-CORD partnership.
The exchange activities concluded into the emergence of 4 meta-clusters in the fields of tourism, ICT, energy & environment, and food.
The project paid attention also to the policy aspect of clusters development and established cooperation with public authorities and regional stakeholders. It determined which policies and supportive measures are desirable across the CE territory. The conclusions are promulgated in policy recommendations which will be translated into real life policies and measures.
The project also designed a complex dissemination and communication campaign in order to create awareness of the topic and to give visibility towards policy makers. The transnational approach was a meaningful source of motivation for steady meta-clusters growth.
1. Benchmarking Study
A systematic comparison process of involved regions has been made. To reach our goal, similar or adaptable regional initiatives have been studied and lessons to be learned have been summarized. The study gave a detailed description of basic features, needs, interests and services and foundation of common cluster strategies in the first issue. Relevant national and regional policy initiatives were summarized to get a basic input for policy recommendations. Finally, the most efficient ways of BP implementation, as well as potential transferring opportunities were given.
2. Five Strategic Plans for Establishing Meta-clusters
The exchange activities concluded into the emergence of 5 meta-clusters (bringing together 20 clusters with more than 1000 members) in the fields of tourism, ICT, energy & environment, health and food. The meta-clusters were established on the basis of strategic cooperation plans.