Cluster Manager Education Programme to boost knowledge and skills

Submitted by Lee Gibson on 22 July 2020

This autumn cluster managers from the Baltic Sea region will gather to develop their competencies and gain new skills in a brand new international Cluster Manager Education Programme.

Seven representatives from Lithuanian clusters are among the 26 selected.

The Erasmus + project fills an obvious gap

Cluster management is a diverse and demanding role which requires a diverse set of skills.

Managers need specific knowledge of cluster management, cooperation between cluster members and partner organisations, project initiation and coordination, strategic management, communication competencies, and the necessary understanding of innovations created by big data and digital technologies and their risk management.

There are more than 230 active registered clusters in the Baltic Sea region but very few training opportunities available.

According to Jolita Razumienė, manager of the Promotion and Development of Innovation Networking (Inolink) cluster project implemented by the Lithuanian Science, Innovation and Technology Agency (MITA), the lack of training programmes is notable internationally.

Therefore, at the end of 2019 the Lithuanian Food Exporters Association (Litmea), representing the SMART FOOD cluster, together with Kaunas University of Technology and five other partners from Sweden, Finland and Germany, started implementing a three-year Erasmus+ project.

The main goal of this project is to define the role of cluster managers and improve the quality of cluster management in the Baltic Sea region by developing and providing a set of key training modules. The budget of the project is €409,000.

Its initiator Katarina Hansell, energy lead and Cluster Manager of the Swedish NetPort Science Park, says the training modules have been tailored to meet the needs identified by 149 respondents to a survey during the previous Erasmus+ project, Cluster4Smart.

The estimated value of the training for each participant is €10,000, but thanks to the Erasmus+ funding, the 26 participants - from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - will only pay for accommodation, travel and food expenses.

The seven participants from Lithuania represent iVita, Smart IT, LITEK, LAuGEA, TOOLAS and SMART food clusters, all of which are participating in the InoLink project.

“The value created and the maturity of the cluster mostly depends on both the competencies and motivation of the manager. Therefore, the active participation of the InoLink cluster managers in this selection for training is a good indicator of the Lithuanian cluster community potential,” said Jolita Razumienė.

The program consists of four modules between September 2020 and November 2021, developed and implemented by partners from Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Germany.

  • Collaboration and Leadership, delivered by Hyper Island from Sweden.
  • Strategic Management and International Business Environment, implemented by a team from the University of Vaasa, Finland
  • Digitalisation in Business, led by Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania
  • Scouting for Innovation, organised by the Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau in Germany

Because of COVID-19 measures, the first module will take place remotely with the others planned to start and finish with live cluster meetings with ongoing seminars, mentoring activities and self-studies proceeding online.

Digitalisation in Business module being developed in Lithuania

Although many have heard of artificial intelligence (AI), big data (BD) and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is still lacking socio-economic and managerial knowledge on how to respond and make optimal use of the opportunities offered by digital technologies.

The aim of the Digitalisation in Business course, therefore, aims to provide a clear understanding of how digital technologies and big data can be leveraged in business. 

During the course, cluster managers will not only gain specific knowledge but will also learn how to apply various digital tools in their daily business activities: to update their existing business models or to create new ones. 

“In order to make strategic and creative decisions, it is necessary for cluster managers to understand the challenges of data and digital technologies and the possibilities of their use,” said Professor Lina Dagilienė, the principal investigator of the Digitalisation Research Group and professor at the School of Economics and Business at Kaunas University of Technology.

“During this module, cluster managers will get acquainted with the Industry 4.0 trends, and will learn how they change current business rules.” 

According to Prof Dagilienė, the Digitalisation Research Group researchers will introduce the risks, challenges and conditions of digital technologies and data management techniques required for digital innovation to benefit business.

The curriculum of the course will be based on global case-studies and business model innovations. 

“By the end of the course, we will provide our students with a ’roadmap‘ on how to discover the digital potential of a business and what to implement for a particular cluster organisation,” said Prof Dagilienė.

International training supports not only knowledge acquisition opportunities

Assessing the international context every region operates as a kind of cluster. Some consortiums are formed by Western European countries (Spain, France, Portugal, Germany),  others by the Benelux countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and neighboring countries).

Another active bloc of cooperation combines Eastern European countries such as Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania.

The Baltic Sea Region, and especially the Nordic countries, are therefore very important for the Lithuanian cluster community.

Lithuanian Cluster Network president Giedrius Bagušinskas believes international training for cluster managers is not only important for knowledge acquisition but that meetings and discussions in a multicultural environment also broaden the horizons.

It creates an ability to understand how clusters and their leaders in different countries work and reveal how both common problems and specific differences are discovered.

“Advanced cluster leaders are always active participants in training and conferences because it is important for them to constantly refresh their knowledge and motivation and expand the contact circle,” he said.

More details on the training are available here.

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