Clusters Driving Regional Innovation: A Comprehensive Look at the Clusters Meet Regions Event in Iasi
The Clusters Meet Regions in Iasi, North-East Romania, held from 21 to 23 November 2023 at the Unirea Conference Centre, marked a significant step towards improving regional innovation ecosystems through clusters across Europe.
The event was organised by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, on behalf of the European Commission, in partnership with the North-East Regional Development Agency of Romania and the Romanian Cluster Association - CLUSTERO. Themed “Clusters as drivers of regional innovation eco-systems”, the event discussed the role of clusters as reliable dialogue partners in the design, implementation and ongoing monitoring of regional development policies and programmes with a focus on smart specialisation, skills for the industrial transition and entrepreneurship.
A total of 250 people from all over Europe attended the event across the two days.
Day 1: Diverse Perspectives and Collaborative Discussions
Welcome & Opening Speeches
The first day began with welcoming coffee and participant registration ahead of a day filled with insightful discussions. Moderated by Teodora Jilkova of the ECCP Team, the opening speeches featured Vasile Asandei, General Director at North-East Regional Development Agency; Mariella Masselink Head of Unit, DG, GROW, European Commission; Terente Ciui, State Secretary at the Romanian Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Tourism and Daniel Cosnita, President of CLUSTERO – the Romanian Cluster Association.
Vasile Asandei set the stage for the collaborative spirit of the event, saying that “for entrepreneurs and companies, clusters represent the ecosystem where they can grow faster, limit certain risks, develop skills, new products and services and offer collaborative relationships. Together we can be stronger and more visible”.
Continuing in this vein, Mariella Masselink spoke to the importance of clusters in the context of reskilling, upskilling and the twin transition: “2023 is the European Year of Skills and I believe clusters can also play a key role in the reskilling and upskilling of workers …Clusters can lead the green transition, accelerate the digital transition and build resilience”. Mariella also mentioned the importance of cluster involvement in the EU Transition Pathways as the pathways enter the implementation phase, and encouraged policymakers to include clusters in national industrial policy.
Keynote Speeches on Smart Growth
Moderated by Gabriela Macoveiu, Director, North-East Regional Development Agency, the following keynote speeches highlighted the role of clusters in facilitating smart growth in a changing world. Speakers included Iva Maric, Programme Manager, DG Regio, Unit E2 (Romania & Croatia); Adrian Curaj, General Director, Romanian Executive Unit for Funding Higher Education, Research Development and Innovation; Jan-Philipp Kramer of the ECCP and, again, Daniel Cosnita, President of the Romanian Clusters Association – CLUSTERO.
Iva Maric addressed the audience via video call, outlining funding opportunities available to Romanian clusters under Cohesion Policy, as well as clusters’ role within the Romanian ecosystem: “Supporting clusters could have a multiplying effect on improving regional competitiveness”. This message has clearly already been taken on board by Northeast Romania, as Iva also outlined that this region has included specific measures for supporting clusters within their new programme.
From the remaining keynotes, the theme emerged that Romania’s innovation ecosystem is lacking in comparison to the rest of Europe, and clusters were encouraged to guide their work towards facilitating innovation within Romania, fulfilling their role as innovation drivers.
Panel Discussions on Enhancing Industry and Interregional Cooperation
The coffee break was proceeded by two panel discussions. The first, moderated by Mariella Masselink, delved into the role of clusters in enhancing and integrating industry into regional R&D ecosystems. The panel featured Valentina Pinna, Program advisor, EISMEA, Unit I.01; Antonio Novo Guerrero, President of the European Cluster Alliance; Jonathan Loeffler, CEO of Steinbeis Europa Zentrum and Ciprian Morcan, Manager, Transylvanian Furniture Cluster.
The panel’s conversation underlined the importance of clusters effectively communicating with their constituent members, with companies and with academic institutions, whilst also functioning as a bridge between these different organisations. Jonathan Loeffler called attention to how this dialogue with companies and businesses must communicate the advantages of becoming cluster members and participating in projects: “Cluster organisations are enablers”.
The day’s final panel, moderated by Gerd Meier zu Köcker, Head of Regional Transformation & Economic Development, VDI/VDE Innovation, discussed clusters' role in interregional and cross-border cooperation. Speakers included Enrico Venturini, Manager, Technological District Moda Toscana; Carmen Mihai Manager, Imago-Mol Cluster; Yari Borbon Expert, Technopolis Group, S3 CoP Secretariat; Farha Brahmi, Network Manager, The Vanguard Initiative and Miljana Cosic Team Manager, Steinbeis Europa Zentrum.
Panellists here outlined their projects, organisations and clusters promoting interregional collaboration, sharing best practices for encouraging and facilitating internationalisation and cross-border cooperation.
Before lunch, Daniel Cosnita, President of CLUSTERO - the Romanian Cluster Association and Tetiana Vorontsova, Board Member of the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Romanian-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of cluster development, cluster policy optimisation and internationalisation of cluster organisations between their respective organisations, topping off a brilliant morning of collaborative discussions.
Lunch and Afternoon Sessions on Transition, Cluster Presentations and Matchmaking
Post-lunch, attendees were treated to a brilliant and in-depth assortment of pitches from a range of companies across Europe:
· France: Cristina Colonna d’Istria, Delegate Manager, Éa éco-entreprises, presented P2GreenEST.
· Ukraine: Ukrainian cluster pitches were presented, including the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance, facilitated by Roman Lysenko.
· Moldova: Moldovan cluster pitches were facilitated by Simion Berzoi, Expert, UNDP Moldova and Alexandru Pelivan, UNDP Moldova.
· Romania: Marius Geru, Open Hub Creative Cluster; Rezső Kádár, Pro Wood Cluster; Diana Balta, Iconic Cluster; GENOVEVA COJOCARU, BioNEst Cluster; Lidia Betoaea, Digital Innovation Zone EDIH and Gabriela Toader, NoBoCap Project.
· Spain Antonio Carlos Ruiz Soria, Technological Corporations of Andalusia and Lidia Morcillo, Modacc - Clúster Català de la Moda i el Tèxtil.
· Finland: Johan Wasberg , EnergyVaasa.
· Italy: Giuseppe Croce, Federcanapa.
With the conclusion of the pitches came the day’s final session – the Matchmaking event. The 85 participants in the matchmaking session managed to have a huge 158 bilateral meetings with one another.
Day 2: Parallel Sessions and Closing Discussions
The final day began with parallel sessions on Bioeconomy, Textiles, and Cluster Financing in Regional Programmes. These sessions featured discussions on bio-economy value chains, sustainable textiles and funding schemes. The Textiles session was hosted by RegioGreenTex (I3) and the CLOTH European Cluster Partnership for Excellence project. The Bioeconomy session was hosted by the RuralBioUP Project with the participation of the Hemp Club, Bio Rural, Mainstream BIO, SCALE-UP, CEE2ACT and BIOTRANSFORM projects. Conversations across these sessions dealt with a range of related topics from questions of whether bioeconomy is sustainable to challenges for the future of sustainable and smart textiles.
The event wrapped up with a bioeconomy meets textile workshop, moderated by Luca Leonardi from the HEREWEAR project, bringing together the topics of the morning’s discussions. The second part of the Medimagia Conference, focusing on Medtech collaborations and innovation, also ran in the afternoon.
The Clusters Meet Regions Conference in Iasi set a new benchmark for regional innovation and collaboration. The discussions and insights from this event will surely drive significant advancements in cluster development, regional growth strategies and, of course, collaboration in Romania and across the rest of Europe.
📸 Check out the photos from the event here.
ℹ️ Find more information about the event on the event page.
✍️ Sign up for our upcoming events!