Concluding the „European Cluster Excellence Initiative – Phase 2“ Project

Submitted by Alina Danieles… on 02 May 2019

VDI/VDE-IT is pleased to announce the successful conclusion of the COSME-funded project „European Cluster Excellence Initiative – Phase 2 (ECEI II).“ On April 26, 2019, the European Cluster Excellence Consortium (ECEC) met in the premises of the European Commission in Brussels to discuss the various ECEI II project results (2017-2019). 18 cluster experts attended the meeting, representing 13 organisations who had actively contributed to the ECEI II project. In addition, the meeting was attended by four EU Commission and EASME representatives.

The ECEI II project originated from intensive discussion with the European Commission about the further development of the Cluster Labelling Scheme that resulted from the first European Cluster Excellence Initiative (2009-2012). It aimed at developing a process leading to an improved European Cluster Labelling Scheme with a particular focus on a higher level of transparency, accountability and efficiency of the current benchmarking and labelling system.

Key outcomes of the ECEI II project are:

  • Governance: An agreement to set up a new international non-profit association, named European Cluster Excellence Association (ECEA) to take over the full responsibility of the Cluster Labelling Scheme. The new entity is foreseen to operate as a non-for-profit Association under Belgian law. Members of the Association shall be legal entities (private and public law entities) active in the area of cluster management excellence and related fields. The governance of the new entity as well as criteria and processes for becoming a member and the role of its support bodies have been detailed in Statutes of the new entity. In a next step, interested parties (not restricted to former ECEC members) will be presenting an action plan to the EC, detailing the necessary steps to launch the new entity, ideally by the beginning of 2020. NOTE: The European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) will remain in charge of and continue all labelling processes until the new association has been officially founded and is operational to take over the labelling processes.
  • Quality Indicators: During the 18month period of the ECEI II project, the previous methodology of the cluster labelling scheme has been further developed in order to adapt it to today’s cluster challenges. Consortium partners tried to improve the efficiency of the assessment process by emphasising users’ needs, both from Cluster Managers and Assessors, e.g. by reducing the reporting and documentation efforts, while at the same time keeping up the quality and credibility of the well-established labelling system. Among the new features are 1) a set of “Eligibility Criteria” that applying organisations must fulfill in order to be awarded a Cluster Management Excellence Label (the Bronze label will not be automatically granted anymore); 2) a revision of both the set of GOLD Label indicators and the Benchmarking Questionnaire; and 3) a new methodology for impact assessment (Gold renewal). The partners decided to hold onto the current general procedures of the respective labelling activities, i.e. the required number of experts and the total number of hours/days required for the assessments and reporting, in order to maintain the current high quality level of assessment reports and audits. NOTE: All changes already agreed under the ECEI II project will be gradually implemented throughout the years 2019/2020. ESCA will inform all stakeholders about any new features well in advance. The EC acknowledged the efforts undertaken so far and is willing to pursue the dialogue with the future ECEA on a better matching between indicators and priorities at EU level (i.e. digitalisation, social cohesion and sustainability).
  • Training: Throughout the course of the project, VDI/VDE-IT worked with national/regional cluster policy programme owners and organised individual Benchmarking Expert trainings as well as online training webinars. In total 45 new Benchmarking Experts from 17 countries have been trained under the ECEI II project. In addition, when the revision of methodology was finalised and the new set of procedures was available, all current assessors were invited to a webinar to familiarise them with the new methodology and the new procedures. NOTE: There will be opportunities for further ad hoc webinars for all experts in order to educate them in detail on all new features. Date, time, and contents of all webinars will be announced in due time.

VDI/VDE-IT would like to thank the entire ECEC and all stakeholders, including the EC representatives for their constructive cooperation throughout the project.


Helmut Kergel (Head of Unit Global Innovation and Cluster)

Dr. Oliver Ziegler (Project Manager)

VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH

Steinplatz 1 D-10623 Berlin/Germany

Email: helmut.kergel [at]; +49 30 31 00 78 154

Email: oliver.ziegler [at]; +49 30 31 00 78 203

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