LASER-GO: We can do it! How?
On 8 March, 2016 the European Commission has officially launched a renewed online European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), an online platform which will gather the details about the planned activities of more than 24 cluster consortia (representing more than 68 cluster organisations) resulting from the call "Clusters Go International" of the COSME 2014 work programme and many more from far a field. The LASER GO consortium bringing together the clusters from Styria, Île-de-France and Vilnius (Human.Technology, OpticsValley and LITEK respectively) has signed a charter with DG GROW along with the other partnerships and was awarded the label of "European Strategic Cluster Partnerships - Going International" (ESCP-4i).
As of that moment the consortium will become part of the EU’s efforts to create new channels for SMEs in the emerging sectors (characterised by higher levels of productivity, R&D intensity and clusterisation) helping to access third markets. In the case of LASER-GO, which is formed by two clusters in photonics and optics and one cluster specializing in health and life sciences, the direction is laser-clear – to go out jointly and find out opportunities for photonics-enabled technologies in health-related uses. The targeted markets span from the Far East (Malaysia, Singapore), across North America to South Africa and reaching out to the newly opened-up Iran.
How this is planned and could be done. The traditional approach for accessing foreign markets was usually done through participating in trade shows and industry events. Increasingly the means of economic diplomacy have gained ground, especially in the countries with rigid state structures. The cluster diplomacy aims to mix both approaches. LASER-GO will leverage both the economic and public diplomacy efforts of Austria, France and Lithuania (each is pursuing a somehow different vector in the world) exploring the channels of state-endorsed trade missions overseas and benefiting from hand-shaking opportunities, while also networking directly with clusters from those countries and using trade shows and industry events as the opportunities to meet up and establish a lead for the round of B2B contacts. 5 pilot missions and 3 events are planned throughout the project which should lead to identifying potential channels to work with after the project which should result in the establishment of the cluster partnership. The consortium has set up ambitious aims to achieve and will make an effort to make them into a “mission possible”, namely to contribute to the increase in the percentage of the turnover from international activities of the SMEs having benefited directly and indirectly from the supported actions by 10% and to facilitate the emergence of collaborative, cooperation projects between the members of the clusters yielding 6 projects with a total budget of up to 5 million EUR per cluster for SMEs and organisations.
Is this feasible to achieve? Since the start of the LASER-GO CSA project one more project got funded involving two clusters and two more proposals are under way involving at least two regions from the existing consortium with two more leads generated during the launch event on 8-9 March alone. And we have been only two months into the 18-months’ project with a budget of some 75k EUR per partner. Why LASER-GO is moving fast is not difficult to explain: the project has been planned and being implemented using the lean startup principles according to them the consortium team is acting as a startup founders' team which is constantly searching for opportunities, formulating hypotheses and testing them in the market for cluster activities. The size of the main project team (2 team members per cluster) and the minimum number of institutions involved (we are the only cluster partnership having only three partners) increases speed in communication and decision-making. If one would need to sum up the motto for LASER-GO, it would be simply “we can do it now!”
Coordinator of LASER-GO Team
Vilnius – Graz - Palaiseau