Frequently asked questions (FAQ's)

Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about ClusterXchange to help you get started today!

The ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) is a new scheme aiming to support short-term exchanges to better connect industrial ecosystems in Europe. It foresees the facilitation of transnational cooperation, peer learning, networking and innovation uptake between members of industrial clusters. It is implemented with support from cluster organisations that have teamed up as European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence or Partnerships. The scheme is funded by the European Union through its programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) and is expected to implement over 600 exchanges from 2020 to 2022.

The participants of the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) can either be host organisations or visiting organisations. The host is the non-travelling party of the exchange. The visitor is the mobile party of the exchange and has to travel to the host organisation’s country in order to take part in an exchange. 

To participate in the CXC as a visitor or host, you need to belong to a:

  1. cluster organisation or a business network organisation
  2. scaling-up support organisation (technology centre, research institute, fab-lab, resource-efficiency service provider, [digital] innovation hub, creative hub, incubator or accelerator) that is a cluster member or
  3. small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) that is a cluster member

All participants must be from countries participating in the COSME programme of the European Union. These countries include all European Union Member States and other third countries, as listed here

If you are not certain you belong to any of the categories listed above, please consult your (cluster) organisation before you register for the scheme. 

For more information, please see the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual or contact the ClusterXchange Support Office by email ([email protected]) or by phone (+351 22 607 64 07 between 10:00-14:00 (CET) on Monday to Friday on working days).

The European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence or Partnerships are 13 transnational European cluster partnerships. The Partnerships, so far, bring together 69 cluster organisations from 21 COSME participating countries and they focus in sectors such as Water, Eco-industries, Smart building, Smart Lighting, Health, Emerging technologies, Advanced manufacturing, Textile, Plastic, Automotive, Railway, Multimodality, Urban Mobility, Packaging, Food services, nearly Zero Energy Buildings, Smart City, Energy, ICT and Sport. The 13 Partnerships oversee the development and execution of the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) with the support of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP).

In the CXC, the Partnerships accompany the exchange participants along the processes and serve as contact points for the participation in the scheme. The aforementioned processes are conducted through the ClusterXchange IT Tool that facilitates the participation of all participants in the scheme.

For more information about the Partnerships, please see the leaflet or visit the Partnerships’ webpages on the ECCP website.

The ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) holds various benefits, both, for hosts and visitors that participate in exchanges. These are listed below.

As a host, you can:

  • Increase the visibility of your organisation, services and products in relevant communities (this exposure can be increased if you host multiple exchanges consecutively or at once)
  • Benefit from opportunities to diffuse your knowledge, experience and information in specific areas and test/validate your theories and practices through the different perspectives of the visitors
  • Learn new skills and knowledge from your visitors
  • Expand your network of contacts and develop new cross border partnerships
  • Gain knowledge on visitors´ foreign markets and develop business and collaborations with them
  • Participate in the ClusterXchange alumni network

As a visitor, you can:

  • Broaden your sector-and non-sector specific skills and knowledge through capacity building
  • Gain insights into the operation and techniques used by your host organisation
  • Expand your network of contacts and develop new cross-border partnerships
  • Find innovative solutions to upgrade your business, products and services
  • Create new business opportunities and get involved in new innovative projects
  • Gain knowledge on foreign markets and cultures
  • Get financial assistance for your exchange
  • Participate in the ClusterXchange alumni network

The registration to the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) must be done via the ClusterXchange IT Tool available on the ClusterXchange portal hosted on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) website. To assist applicants during the registration process, a ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual is available in English and in a downloadable PDF format on the ClusterXchange portal.

The selection of the European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence (Partnerships) to take charge of the exchange and serve as a contact point is done by the applicants to the scheme during the registration process via the ClusterXchange IT Tool. During this process, applicants can manually select a specific Partnership that will manage their participation in the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC). The selection of the Partnership can be based on their sectoral coverage and/or the geographical location of the Partnerships’ cluster members. However, the ClusterXchange IT Tool also has the option of an 'Automatic selection' to let the system automatically select a Partnership for the applicant. The selection is done using an algorithm that calculates the most suitable Partnership for each applicant.

Keep in mind that the Partnerships focus in sectors such as Water, Eco-industries, Smart building, Smart Lighting, Health, Emerging technologies, Advanced manufacturing, Textile, Plastic, Automotive, Railway, Multimodality, Urban Mobility, Packaging, Food services, nearly Zero Energy Buildings, Smart City, Energy, ICT and Sport. Before selecting the Partnership to facilitate your participation, check their sectors and expertise in order to have a complete picture of how they can be an asset to facilitate your exchange and make it as useful as possible. More on the Partnerships can be found here.

For more information, please see the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.

Yes. The general objective of the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) is to encourage and facilitate transnational, cross-regional, sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation between clusters and their members to boost their learning and innovation-oriented activities with a view to increase the competitiveness of European SMEs. 

As the goal is to foster SME competitiveness and assist companies to successfully access global markets, an exchange must be between a host organisation of one country and a visiting organisation of a different country. The eligible countries include all countries participating in the COSME programme of the European Union. These are all European Union Member States and other third countries, as listed here

An exchange can last a minimum of three working days and a maximum one month, excluding travel time. The stay has to be consecutive days for the duration of exchange that has been agreed.

The participants of the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC), hosts or visitors, can select their counterparts according to their preferences. The exchanges can be conducted in different forms: i) Individually – one visitor per one host at one time or ii) Grouped – multiple visitors are hosted by one host organisation at the same time. Host organisations can host visitors from foreign organisations that are active in business areas relevant to their organisations. Similarly, visitors can visit foreign organisations that are active in the business areas relevant to their organisations. However, a visiting organisation can only participate in an exchange once, whereby a host organisation can host multiple exchanges at once or at different times.

The entire CXC is administered through the ClusterXchange IT Tool found on the ClusterXchange portal hosted on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) website. Accordingly, the IT Tool has been designed to assist applicants in the selection of counterparts through a ‘scoring system’ that designates the counterparts (as visitors or hosts) that are considered to be suitable to match with the applicant interested in an exchange. Nevertheless, regardless of the scoring system, applicants are able to initiate matches with any other counterparts as they wish. With the support of the IT Tool, applicants have the freedom to choose the most suited counterparts that can best fulfil their needs.

For more information, please see the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.

The action plan of an exchange will be defined and agreed upon in the Commitment to Quality document (more on this is under Question 12). However, a framework has been set up to help participants select the activities that would best assist them in gaining skills and knowledge to boost their business managerial, competitiveness, networking capabilities and knowledge sharing abilities, among others. Some of the recommended activities include:

  • Visitors can shadow the hosts as a capacity building activity during working hours
  • Conducting market research with experienced professionals in the field
  • Project management and SME finance training
  • Business operation and management best practice exercises
  • Branding, sales and marketing of clusters or companies
  • Team work and group training
  • Networking and new market entrance teachings

As a ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) participant, you can either be a host or visiting organisation. The participants will be provided technical support, guidance and advice from the European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence (Partnerships) and ClusterXchange Support Office for a successful participation in the scheme. Visiting organisations may also receive financial support from the Partnerships for their exchanges. The financial support comes as a contribution in the form of a lump sum per participant to partly cover the travel and accommodation expenses for the stay. Host organisations will not be provided financial support by the Partnerships. All processes that relate to the participation in the CXC (i.e. registration, matching, exchange building and exchange execution) are managed via the ClusterXchange IT Tool accessible through the ClusterXchange portal hosted on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) website.

More information about the lump sum paid to the visiting organisations in the different COSME participating countries can be found in the Annex of the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.

Yes. Both, the hosts and visitors are required to sign the Commitment to Quality, which states the conditions for the exchange. This document has the same binding terms as a contract. The document is developed together by the host and each visitor planning to have an exchange. The document particularises on the specifics and arrangements for the exchange such as objectives and type of exchange, action plan, date and duration, expected outcomes of the exchange, assigned European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence (Partnerships) for the participants and the fundamental rules of the exchange. The exchange can only start once the Commitment to Quality has been signed by the host and visitor, validated and signed by the Partnership(s) in charge, and validated by the ClusterXchange Support Office and European Commission services, if selected for random EC validation.

After the Commitment to Quality has been signed and validated, the visitors are required to sign a Financial Agreement for the lump sum that they would receive for contributing to the sustenance during the exchange. For more information about the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement, please visit the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.

The ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) consists of four phases:

  • i) Registration
  • ii) Matching
  • iii) Exchange Building
  • iv) Exchange Execution

a. During the (i) registration phase: the ClusterXchange Support Office should be contacted to address your queries or requests for specific guidance as no European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Excellence (Partnerships) contact point is yet assigned to accompany you. The ClusterXchange Support Office can be contacted by email ([email protected]) or by phone (+351 22 607 64 07 between 10:00-14:00 (CET) on Monday to Friday on working days).

b. During the application stage phase (ii) the matching, (iii) exchange building or during the execution phase (iv) exchange execution: the assigned Partnership can be contacted through the contact details indicated on the ClusterXchange IT Tool. The profile of your assigned Partnership is indicated in your user profile overview.

The ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) was initially foreseen by the European Commission to be implemented solely through physical exchanges. However, due to the travel restrictions, social-distancing measures and quarantine rules which have been set up as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the possibility of virtual exchanges as mitigation strategy became plausible. A virtual exchange has the same overall objectives as the physical exchange, i.e. the main goal is to boost SME competitiveness and create knowledge-transfer and capacity building for European SMEs and enable transnational cooperation among cluster members in the COSME programme. Virtual exchanges are allowed in the CXC until 31 December 2020. However, as the evolution of the global health crisis instigated by COVID-19 is unknown, extension of the timeframe for virtual exchanges could be reconsidered. Due to the limitations imposed by the distance between the participants of a virtual exchange (i.e. hosts and visitors), the action plan for the exchanges can be tailored to virtually feasible activities but as equally beneficial to both the participants. To see the type of activities that you can engage in, please check Question 10 or visit the ClusterXchange portal

Yes. Both, eligible hosts and visitors can participate in a virtual exchange and later take part in a physical exchange.

A visitor will not receive financial assistance for a virtual exchange. However, if the visitor later decides to participate in a physical exchange, he/she will be granted financial assistance (according to the signed Financial Agreement). Please see more under Question 12.

A virtual exchange can last minimum three working days and a maximum duration of one month. Unlike the physical exchanges, a virtual exchange does not have to take place in consecutive days but it must be done following the formula: x number of days have to be completed in x number of weeks, thus, an exchange of three working days has to be completed within three consecutive weeks.