Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about ClusterXchange to help you get started today!
What is the ClusterXchange scheme?
The ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) is a pilot 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 Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships). The scheme is funded by the European Union through its programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME). The first set of CXC exchanges have been implemented from 2020 to 2022 in the pilot phase of CXC.
Who is eligible to participate in ClusterXchange?
The participants of the ClusterXchange scheme (CXC) can either be host organisations (HO) or visiting organisations (VO). 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 CXC as a visitor or host, you need to belong to a:
- cluster organisations profiled on ECCP or similar business network organisations;
- scaling-up support organisations (technology centre, research institute, fab-lab, resource-efficiency service provider, [digital] innovation hub, creative hub, incubator or accelerator) that are members of cluster organisations profiled on the ECCP; or
- small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are members of cluster organisations profiled on ECCP.
If you are not certain you belong to any of the categories listed above, please consult your (cluster) organisation before you register for CXC.
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).
Who are the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence?
The European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence or Partnerships are transnational European cluster partnerships. The pilot phase of CXC was implemented by 13 Partnerships, bringing together 69 cluster organisations from 21 COSME participating countries. These Partnerships focused 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 following phases of CXC will continue to be implemented by the next generations of Excellence Partnerships.
In general, the Partnerships oversee the development and execution of ClusterXchange (CXC) with the support of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP). The Partnerships are also termed as a VOP standing for Visiting Organisation’s (VO’s) Partnership (the Partnership accompanying the exchange of the VO) or an HOP standing for Host Organisation’s (HO’s) Partnership (the Partnership accompanying the exchange of the HO).
In CXC, the Partnerships are in charge of the VOs or HOs and accompany the exchange participants along the processes and serve as contact points for participation in the scheme. The aforementioned processes are conducted through the ClusterXchange IT Tool that facilitates the participation of all participants in the scheme.
What are the benefits of participating in ClusterXchange as a host /visitor?
ClusterXchange (CXC) holds various benefits, both, for hosts and visitors that participate in exchanges. These are listed below.
As a host from a host organisation (HO), 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 from a visiting organisation (VO), 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
For more information about the activities in CXC, please see the CXC Brochure for Hosts and Visitors
What is the duration of an exchange?
An exchange can last a minimum of three full-working days and a maximum of one month, excluding travel time. The stay has to be consecutive days for the duration of exchange that has been agreed.
Where can I register to participate in ClusterXchange?
Registration to ClusterXchange (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.
How can I login and create a profile on the CXC IT Tool?
The ClusterXchange (CXC) IT Tool is used to support the implementation of . The CXC IT Tool is accessible to all ECCP user profile holders. To login and create an account, click ‘Register’ on the top right corner of the ECCP website https://clustercollaboration.eu. You can create a new account or use your ECCP user profile credentials (login email and password) to log in.
To find the CXC IT Tool, scroll down on the ECCP Homepage and find ClusterXchange button.
Profiling your organisation on the ClusterXchange (CXC) IT Tool will permit it to participate in CXC as a host and/or visiting organisation. Before you register your organisation on the CXC IT Tool, check your eligibility to participate in CXC here.
To create an organisation’s profile on the CXC IT Tool, log in and click the ‘Create a profile’ button. Choose between the following profile types to create:
- Visiting Organisation (VO);
- Host Organisation (HO);
- Both (recommended if your organisation can be a VO or HO. This functionality allows you to fill in data for both VO and HO profiles at the same time).
There are five steps in which you need to insert the information to create and complete the profile. After completion of the profile, proofread your profile and click on ‘Submit to Validation’ and the profile will be submitted to the Partnership you selected.
The profiles are validated by the respective Partnerships from the 13 European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence that you selected during profile creation. Once a profile has been validated, you can move forward to searching for a counterpart to create a match for an exchange.
For more information on the conditions of CXC, visit the CXC IT Tool User Manual here.
See the tutorial video here:
How can I delete my organisation's profile on the CXC IT Tool?
You are able to see all the organisation profiles linked to your email address on the CXC IT Tool landing page after you log back into the CXC IT Tool. You can view and edit the profile directly ONLY if it is ‘in draft’ status. To permanently delete the profiles, click on ‘View’ and then ‘Delete Profile’.
How do I perform and manage matches on the CXC IT Tool?
Once the Visiting Organisation (VO) and Host Organisation (HO) profiles have been validated by the assigned Partnerships, the profiles are automatically placed under ‘Published’ status. Matches are initiated and validated solely by the HO or VO, although the Partnerships and the ClusterXchange Support Office (CXC SO) can provide assistance when needed.
The matching phase is a unidirectional process in which the CXC IT Tool provides a catalogue of potential counterparts to the VO and HO, and communication is carried out through the CXC IT Tool.
How do I initiate a match on the CXC IT Tool?
Once a profile has been validated, the VO or HO receives an email notification. Once you enter the matching phase, the CXC IT Tool performs automated matchmaking of the VOs with HOs (and vice versa) based on preset algorithmic calculations, indicating the best options to support the participants in identifying the most suited counterparts. The measure of ‘suitability’ will be indicated in the ‘Match score’ in percentages (the closer the figure is to 100, the higher the complementarity). The VOs and HOs have two ways to find matches:
- VOs and HOs manually sift through potential counterparts for an exchange and initiate a match according to their preferences; or
- VOs and HOs use the prospective counterparts selected by the CXC IT Tool as the best suited matches for an exchange and initiate a match.
Find your suitable match by clicking on ‘View’ and reading the profile. To establish contact with the counterpart, click on ‘Initiate Match’ and communicate with the counterpart through the chat box. Once an agreement is reached between both counterparts, click on ‘Validate Match’ to approve the match.
Note: Through the chat box, the Partnerships or CXC SO might also contact you to indicate a highly beneficial match for you as a proposition.
See the tutorial video here:
How do I reject or cancel a previous match and search for a new match on the CXC IT Tool?
A match validated by one HO or VO can be cancelled by the same party/ies. To reject a match that you, as an HO or VO, validated, go to ‘My Matches’ and click on ‘View’ for the match you want to reject. Click on ‘Reject Match’ and provide the reason for cancellation of the match. The match will be automatically deleted from your ‘Matches List’.
To search and reinitiate another match with a different counterpart, go back to ‘My profiles’ or ‘My Matches’ and click on ‘Find a match’ for your HO or VO profile. Select your preferred counterpart from the possible matches list to initiate a match.
See the tutorial video here:
How can I validate a match on the CXC IT Tool?
For a match to move forward to the ‘Exchange building’ phase, both the VO and HO need to validate the match. To validate a match as the counterpart, go to ‘My Matches’ and click on ‘View’ on the pending match. You can use the chat box to communicate with the counterpart or use the ‘Profile’ button to view the counterpart’s profile. Click on ‘Validate Match’ and an exchange will be automatically created. The IT Tool will then direct you to your exchanges list.
See the tutorial video here:
What is exchange building?
The exchange building and finalisation phases are the last stages of the exchange. The exchange (for Visiting Organisation, VO) or exchanges (for Host Organisation, HO) can be found under ‘My Exchanges’ on the menu bar. Each exchange has a corresponding unique reference number.
In the exchange building phase, the Visiting Organisation (VO) and Host Organisation (HO) work closely with each other and their Partnerships to prepare the documents needed to execute an exchange. These documents include the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement that are located on the IT Tool.
How can I create a Commitment to Quality on the CXC IT Tool?
- Creating and/or editing a Commitment to Quality for an exchange?
To create the Commitment to Quality for your exchange, find your exchange under ‘My Exchanges’ on the dashboard, go to the exchange detail and click on ‘Edit’. The Visiting Organisation (VO) and Host Organisation (HO) can work together to develop and cross check the details for the exchange on the IT Tool.
B. Saving and marking a Commitment to Quality for validation
Complete all the fields for the Commitment to Quality and click on the save button on the bottom right corner to save the form. Once the Commitment to Quality has been agreed on by the VO and HO, it can be set as ‘Mark as Ready for Validation’.
C. Viewing and downloading a Commitment to Quality
The counterparts can download and sign the Commitment to Quality by Clicking on ‘View Commitment’ and then ‘Download’.
D. Uploading a signed Commitment to Quality
The counterparts can download and sign the Commitment to Quality physically by printing, scanning and uploading it, or by downloading and inserting digital signatures before uploading it. Counterparts can insert the signatures simultaneously or consecutively.
The signature guidelines for the Commitment to Quality can be found in the Question below titled ‘What is the procedure for signing the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement?
E. Validating a Commitment to Quality
Once all the counterparts have agreed on the content of the Commitment to Quality, the HO and VO can validate it separately. To validate the Commitment to Quality, click on the ‘Validate’ button on the right side of the exchange detail.
F. Sending a Commitment to Quality back to draft for editing
A Commitment to Quality can be sent back to draft by either of the counterparts if changes are required. To send the Commitment to Quality back to draft, click on the yellow button with ‘Back to draft’ on it. When you send a Commitment to Quality back to draft after you had signed the Commitment to Quality in PDF format, the signed document will be lost. When a Commitment to Quality is sent back to draft, always make sure to indicate the reason behind the action. Once in the draft status, the Commitment to Quality can be edited and ‘Marked as ready for validation’ again.
Once validated by both counterparts, the Commitment to Quality is sent to the Partnerships for validation.
The Commitment to Quality might be randomly selected by the EC for validation along the way.
If changes are required, the Commitment to Quality is sent back to the counterparts to apply changes or archived. If validated in all the stops, the exchange moves forward to ‘Exchange finalisation’.
How can I create an exchange group and add new VOs to the group?
A Host Organisation (HO) can group two or more Visiting Organisations (VOs) that are hosted by the same HO for the same exchange into an ‘Exchange Group’. Although each exchange will have separate exchange details, the Commitment to Quality will be the same for all of the exchanges as long as they are bound in a grouped exchange. Only the HO can edit the Commitment to Quality, but the VOs can validate the exchange before it is signed and sent to the Partnership(s).
- Creating an Exchange Group
The HO can create an Exchange Group if there is more than one VO involved in the exchange. To create an Exchange Group, the HO should open one of the exchange details of the VOs and click on ‘Add to Exchange Group’ on the left corner of the frame and provide a name for the group before clicking on ‘Create Group’. The exchange should be in the ‘draft status’.
B. Adding a Visiting Organisation to an Exchange Group
The HO can add or remove VOs from an Exchange Group when needed. The grouping and ungrouping action can only be taken when all the exchanges in the group are in the ‘DRAFT’ status. To add a VO to an existing Exchange Group, click on ‘Add to Exchange Group’ on the left corner of the frame and select the Exchange Group.
C. Removing a Visiting Organisation from an Exchange Group
To remove a VO from an Exchange Group, go to the exchange detail of the VO and click on ‘Remove from Exchange Group’.
Changing the composition of an Exchange Group when the exchange bundle is not in ‘DRAFT’ status is not possible. Thus, if the HO needs to add new VOs to an exchange that has passed the ‘Draft’ status, the HO or Partnership(s) or SO need to send the exchange back to draft first before the new VO can be added to the group.
How can I prepare the Financial Agreement on the CXC IT Tool?
When the Visiting Organisation (VO) is entitled to receive a lump sum from the scheme (i.e., if VO is not a direct beneficiary of the Partnerships), the VO can sign the Financial Agreement with their Partnership (VOP) once the Commitment to Quality has been validated by all the parties involved (including the European Commission and ClusterXchange Support Office in the case of random screening).
- Downloading a Financial Agreement template from the IT Tool
The Financial Agreement template is located on the IT Tool, and is only made available to the Visiting Organisation and Partnership responsible for the Visiting Organisation after the European Commission and Support Office validate the Commitment to Quality and the exchange is in the ‘Preparation’ status. To download the Financial Agreement template, click on the blue button with ‘View Financial Agreement’ and download template.
- Uploading a signed Financial Agreement as a PDF
Once the Financial Agreement has been signed, it should be uploaded in a PDF format. In this step, the Host Organisation (HO) and the Partnership responsible for the Host Organisation (HOP) do not need to take action.
The signature guidelines for the Financial Agreement can be found here.
C. Identifying the sector of exchange
For each exchange, the sector of exchange needs to be agreed on and selected by the VO or Partnership(s). The sector of exchange should be selected by one actor when the exchange is between ‘Draft’ and ‘Preparation’ status.
The exchange can be set in the ‘Ready to start’ status by the VOP. Once set, the participants to do not need to take action on the IT Tool until the end date of the exchange has been reached.
What is exchange finalisation?
In the exchange finalisation phase, the physical exchange is implemented and the Visiting Organisation (VO) travels to the Host Organisation’s (HO) country. Because the exchange has been marked as ‘Ready to start’ in the Exchange building phase, once the actual start date of the exchange is reached, the IT Tool automatically places the exchange on ‘Stay ongoing’ status. After the end date has closed, the exchange will be automatically marked as ‘Waiting for Feedback’. In these three statuses, the VO(s) and HO do not need to take action on the IT Tool.
How can I prepare the Final Activity Report on the CXC IT Tool?
When an exchange reaches the ‘Waiting for Feedback’ status, the participants (as a Visiting Organisation (VO) or a Host Organisation (HO)) should create their Final Activity Reports separately and submit them on the IT Tool. The Final Activity Reports are filled out on the IT Tool through a form generated by the tool. Upon completion of the report, the participants can leave it as a draft to edit later or validate the report to be submitted to the respective Partnership.
- Locating and creating a Final Activity Report
The Final Activity Report for each participant is only visible to the owner of the organisation’s profile on the IT Tool, i.e., the VO can only see the Final Activity Report of the VO. To find and create the report, click on the’ View Reports’ button and scroll down to find the EDIT button for your report.
B. Editing and saving a Final Activity Report
A Final Activity Report can only be edited by the participant that is preparing the report. The report can be saved and edited at a later date. However, the timeframe for the submission of Final Activity Reports stipulated in the Commitment to Quality should be adhered to.
C. Validating and viewing a Final Activity Report
When the participant validates a Final Activity Report, it is sent to the respective Partnership responsible for the participant and can no longer be edited by the participant, however it can be viewed.
D. Checking if a report has been validated or sent back to draft
Once a Final Activity Report has been validated or rejected by a Partnership, the IT Tool will send a notification to the Visiting and/or Host Organisations to inform them of the status of the report. However, the participants can also go to the bottom of the page where the fiche for the Final Activity Reports are located, to see whether the report has been validated or sent back to draft.
If the report is sent back by the respective Partnership, it will be made available to the participant in a draft format to edit. Once both the Partnerships of the Host and Visiting Organisation validate the reports, the exchange will automatically move to ‘Completed’ status.
After the completion of the exchange, the Visiting Organisation(s) and the Partnership(s) responsible for them can organise the financial reimbursement (within 10 working days after the closure of all Final Activity Reports).
How can I prepare the Final Activity Report on the CXC IT Tool for a grouped exchange as the Host Organisation (HO)?
In grouped exchanges, the Host Organisation (HO) only needs to prepare the Final Activity Report once (in one of the exchange details). However, the HO’s Final Activity Report can only be validated by the Partnership of the HO (HOP) after all the Final Activity Reports of the Visiting Organisations (VOs) have been validated. Once the HOP validates the HO’s Final Activity Report, the exchange will be automatically placed in the ‘Completed’ status.
The HO’s Final Activity Report will not appear on each exchange detail for each VO in the grouped exchange (Image 1 below) but only on the VO exchange detail where the HO first selected to develop the Final Activity Report (Image 2 below).
How do I know which European Cluster Partnership | Excellence is the most suited to assist me during my exchange?
The selection of the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) to take charge of the exchange and serve as a contact point is done by the applicants to ClusterXchange CXC 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 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 Assignment' 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.
Does an exchange need to be transnational and which countries are eligible?
Yes. The general objective of ClusterXchange (CXC) is to encourage and facilitate transnational, cross-regional, intra-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 (HO) of one country and a visiting organization (VO) 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.
How do I select my counterpart for an exchange?
The participants of ClusterXchange (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.
What type of activities can an exchange comprise?
The action plan of an exchange will be defined and agreed upon in the Commitment to Quality document (more on this is under Question titled ‘Do I need to sign an agreement or a contract?’). 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
For more information about the activities in CXC, please see the CXC Brochure for Hosts and Visitors
What kind of support will I receive to participate in the ClusterXchange scheme?
As ClusterXchange (CXC) participant, you can either be a host or visiting organisation. The participants will be provided technical support, guidance and advice from the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) and ClusterXchange Support Office (SO) 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 Annex 1 of the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.
How do I know if I can get financial support to participate in an exchange?
Only the visiting organisations (VOs) that successfully complete an exchange are granted financial support by the scheme. A lump sum is provided to the VO based on the origin country of the HO. The aim of the financial support is to contribute to sustenance of the VO during the exchange.
More information about Financial Agreement and provision of financial support can be found in the Annexes of the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.
Do I need to sign an agreement or a contract?
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 particularizes on the specifics and arrangements for the exchange such as objectives and type of exchange, action plan and agenda, date and duration, expected outcomes of the exchange, assigned European Cluster Partnerships | 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 of the exchange, and validated by the ClusterXchange Support Office (SO) and European Commission services, if selected for random EC validation.
After the Commitment to Quality has been signed and validated, the eligible 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.
How should I prepare the Commitment to Quality for an exchange?
The Commitment to Quality for an exchange is created on the ClusterXchange IT Tool after a match by a host organization (HO) and a visiting organization (VO) has been validated by both parties and an exchange is created. In the exchange building phase, both the HO and VO(s) should collectively discuss and develop the action plan for the exchange and the content for the Commitment to Quality. After the HO and VO insert the relevant details for the exchange in the Commitment to Quality form on the IT Tool and mark the exchange ‘Ready for Validation’, the IT Tool will generate the Commitment to Quality and present it in a downloadable PDF format.
- Objectives for the exchange: the overall and specific objectives for the exchange should be well-define and outlined. The participants can include the individual objectives of the HO and VOs and related indicators (if there are any). The details need to be as specific as possible with examples of expected results and outcomes per objective. This section can be presented in bullet points, if needed.
- Action plan and agenda for the exchange: the actions of the HO should be described in detail, focusing on how the HO will engage with the VO(s) and participate in delivering the action plan, e.g., facilitate and moderate the exchange, interact with the VOs, conduct trainings or other sessions, foster communication and knowledge/skill-transfer, support the realization of each or some of the specific objectives for the VOs, etc. Moreover, the identity/ies and actions of the VOs (overall) should also be elaborated. The action plan should include the agenda for each day of the exchange (separately for each day), including the hour of start and ending for each session and the content, location and speakers/facilitators/presenters of each session (where available/possible). In addition, the intervals such as coffee and lunch breaks, check-in and -out time should be indicated in the agenda (where possible). The agenda for each day normally needs to have a minimum of 8 working hours (or what is considered a normal working day of the host organisation) to count as a full day of exchange.
- Expected outcomes from the exchange: the concrete and intangible impact and outcomes expected should be briefly detailed, in relation of the objectives.
The development of Commitments to Quality should be done by consulting the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) in charge of the VO and HO. Once the content for the Commitment to Quality is ready, the Partnerships will take the lead in submitting the contract to the CXC SO for validation. The Commitment(s) to Quality should be sent to the SO at least two weeks before the exchange is due to begin, in order to allow more time for revision and changes. After the Commitment to Quality has been revised and validated by all parties including the SO/EC/EISMEA, it should be signed following the guidelines stated in the Question below titled ‘What is the procedure for signing the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement?’.
The signatories of the Commitment to Quality do not need to be the representatives participating in the exchange but can be a person authorized to sign on behalf of the organisation participating in the exchange.
What is the procedure for signing the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement?
The Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement can contain handwritten and/or electronic signatures. The following rules apply to the signature of these documents.
The documents containing only electronic signatures:
Only the qualified electronic signature (QES) within the meaning of Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 (eIDAS Regulation) is accepted. Documents signed with a QES benefit from the highest level of security and legal certainty under the eIDAS Regulation.
A qualified electronic signature is an advanced electronic signature which is additionally:
- created by a qualified signature creation device (QSCD);
- and is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signatures.
How to create a Qualified electronic signature?
- Obtain a digital certificate from a Trust Service Provider (TSP)
- European Union Trusted List : https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/tl-browser/#/ can be consulted to find trusted providers of qualified certificates and the private key related to the certificate which will be usually stored by providers on a ‘qualified electronic signature creation device’ (QSCD). To make sure that the QES used is compliant to eIDAS Regulation, the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnership) need to check that both the service provider and the qualified certificate generation service used are included in the EU Trusted List Browser.
Select “Qualified certificate for electronic signature” and click “Next”. Then, select any country you may found appropriate and click “Search”. You will then see the list with all available Trusted Providers in your country which you can contact.
- An electronic signature is issued for a physical person associated with a business and the provider may ask you to provide evidence for this during the process. Once you have a qualified certificate for electronic signature, you will be able to sign documents. It is recommended that Partnership check the signatures and the validity of their certificate with the following tool:
- The DSS Demonstration validation tool available at https://ec.europa.eu/cefdigital/DSS/webapp-demo/validation can help check the validity of a certificate by indicating the number and type of valid signatures in a document. Please note that TSPs might offer their own step-by-step process for signing digitally.
- More background information can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/cefdigital/wiki/display/CEFDIGITAL/eSignature
If you have a specific question, you can also contact the CEF Digital Help Desk
If all electronic signatures are valid, then the signed document is valid too.
The documents containing only hand-written (BLUE INK) signatures:
The document must be signed in BLUE INK in original, which is a hand-written signature, and should be sent by post to the Partnership that is collecting it. In this case, an advanced scanned pdf copy is sufficient to initiate the virtual exchange, but it does not replace, in anyway, the posting procedure.
The document contains both electronic and paper (blue ink) signatures(hybrid):
This is possible but please bear in mind the electronic signature validity rules above. For posting the printed copies, the document has to be signed first electronically by all parties who can sign electronically, then the first party who signs with blue ink, prints out in as many copies as there are parties signing, signs and sends to the next paper signature party. The last one that signs on paper sign one original to all other signatories. Please note that we are still clarifying this last point of sending CTQs by post with the EC services, nevertheless we have included this as well here.
How should I prepare the Financial Agreement for a physical exchange?
The Financial Agreement is prepared and signed after the Commitment to Quality has been validated by the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) and possibly, the ClusterXchange Support Office (SO) and/or the European Commission services. After the validation of the Commitment to Quality, the Financial Agreement template will be made available on the ClusterXchange IT Tool in a downloadable Word format for the Partnership in charge of the visiting organisation (VOP) and the visiting organisation (VO) to download. Only the VOP and VO should act at this stage and the process should be led by the VOP who is responsible for providing relevant information and/or requesting for information from the VO. Once the Financial Agreement is ready, both parties should sign the agreement as was done for the Commitment to Quality (following the standard signature rules, please see in the Question titled ‘What is the procedure for signing the Commitment to Quality and Financial Agreement?’) and upload the contact onto the IT Tool in a PDF format.
More information about the signature procedure can be found on the ClusterXchange IT Tool User Manual.
Who do I contact in case I encounter a problem prior to and/or during the exchange?
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.
What is/was a virtual exchange in the ClusterXchange scheme?
ClusterXchange (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 had the same overall objectives as the physical exchange, i.e., the main goal was 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 have been allowed in CXC until 31 August 2021. 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.
If I have participated in a virtual exchange, can I participate in a physical exchange?
Yes. All host organisations (HOs) and visiting organisations (VOs) that participated in virtual exchanges can also participate in physical exchanges. However, the VOs can only partake in a physical exchange once, whereby the HO can participate multiple times and in multiple exchanges.
How many times can I participate in ClusterXchange?
An eligible organisation can participate as a visiting organisation (VO) in one virtual exchange and one physical exchange. However, an organisation can participate as a host organisation (HO) in multiple exchanges, both virtual and physical.
How many user accounts can I create on the ClusterXchange IT Tool?
Each organization can have only 1 visiting organisation (VO) and 1 host organisation (HO) profile on the ClusterXchange IT Tool and each can have 1 person registered in these profiles (the person on the VO and HO profiles can be different). Thus, there should only be one person who is the profile holder of each profile. However, these persons registered on the IT Tool VO or HO profiles are the representatives that personally participate in the exchange(s). In case there are other representatives from the organizations (VO or HO) that want to participate in an exchange as additional individuals, it is up to the organizers of the event and the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) in charge of the exchange to decide whether this is possible. However, additional persons will not be registered on the CXC IT Tool or the exchange, and thus, will not be mentioned in the Commitment to Quality or be eligible to receive financial support from the scheme (as VOs).
Is it mandatory to have an ECCP profile in order to create a user profile on the ClusterXchange IT Tool?
In order to create a visiting organisation (VO) and host organisation (HO) profile on the ClusterXchange IT Tool, all users must first create an ECCP account. However, once the ECCP account is created, users not interested in publishing/completing their ECCP profile can directly go to the ClusterXchange (CXC) portal and access the CXC IT Tool. For Cluster Organisations that are linked to Clusters on ECCP, it is important to link the Cluster Organisation to the Cluster registered on ECCP before creating a profile on CXC IT Tool. During the registration process on the ECCP, the user can choose if the ECCP profile can be made visible or not. All Cluster Organisations need to be validated on the ECCP before the user can create a profile on CXC IT Tool.
A guide on how to create a profile on ECCP can be found here: https://clustercollaboration.eu/faq-page
For how long can I keep my profile on the ClusterXchange IT Tool in the ‘draft’ status?
All profiles that have been inactive for at least 2 months and are in the ‘draft’ status will be removed from the database of the ClusterXchange IT Tool every 2 months and therefore, inaccessible to the users or holders of the profiles. The holders of the ‘inactive’ profiles in draft status will receive warnings by email indicating the pending deletion of the profiles. All profiles in draft that are not either deleted by the profile holders or completed and submitted will be deleted.
What should I do if I create an exchange by mistake?
Exchanges can only be deleted by the ClusterXchange Support Office (SO). Thus, the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) in charge of the exchange should contact the SO by email (c[email protected]), requesting for the exchange to be deleted and the visiting organisation’s (VO) profile to be recovered. Note that once an exchange is deleted, the VO’s profile which was involved in that exchange is also made inaccessible to the VO. Thus, the SO deletes the exchange and recovers the VO profile and avails it to the VO in a draft profile status. Once the VO’s profile is recovered, the VO needs to resubmit the profile and undergo the matching and exchange building phases again.
What is the meaning of the ‘A profile of this type for this organisation already exists’ notification that appears on the IT Tool during registration?
This error notice on the ClusterXchange IT Tool informs the user or registrant for ClusterXchange the organisation they are trying to register as visiting organization (VO) or host organization (HO) has already been registered or started registration through another profile on the IT Tool. It is possible the organization’s profile is in a draft, review or published status; thus, the user should revert back to the dashboard of the IT Tool and check all of the IT Tool profiles associated to his/her ECCP profile. If the organisation’s profile on the IT Tool is in a draft status, the user can continue/finish the registration process and submit for validation. If the profile has been published and the user needs to change the content in the profile, the user can contact the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnership) in charge of their profile or CXC SO to send the profile back to draft.
What should I do if I encounter difficulties entering the ClusterXchange IT Tool or and ‘Error’ sign shows?
Aside from the errors reported in the Question above titled ‘What is the meaning of the ‘A profile of this type for this organisation already exists’ notification that appears on the IT Tool during registration?’, the ClusterXchange IT Tool might also indicate other forms of errors due to overloading. In this case, before contacting the ClusterXchange Support Office (SO), the user should try to open the CXC IT Tool using a private browser or clean the cache on the browser before trying to access the IT Tool. If this attempt does not prove successful, the CXC SO can be contacted at c[email protected]
Can a visitor receive financial assistance for a virtual 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.
How long is a virtual exchange?
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.
Who do I contact in case I encounter a problem prior to and/or during the exchange?
ClusterXchange (CXC) consists of four phases:
iii) Exchange Building, and
iv) Exchange Execution.
- During the (i) registration phase: the ClusterXchange Support Office (SO) should be contacted to address your queries or requests for specific guidance as no European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence (Partnerships) contact point is yet assigned to accompany you. The CXC SO can be contacted by email ([email protected]).
- 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.