The EU Commission action 'Clusters Go International' contributes strongly to boost SMEs access to global value chains

Submitted by Eva Fadil on 21 February 2018

The 'Clusters Go International' action of the COSME Framework Programme of the European Commission contributed to establish European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International (ESCP-4i) to reinforce cross-border collaboration between European clusters with the ultimate goal of going international jointly  and better helping SMEs' access to third markets.

Over the last two years, 15 co-funded and some voluntary "European Strategic Cluster Partnerships for Going International" (ESCP-4i) involving about 100 cluster organisations across 23 European countries reaching out over 12.000 SMEs have developed and implemented joint strategies to support SME internationalisation towards third countries beyond Europe. The ESCP-4i represent a wide panel of sectors and have succeeded in establishing contacts in various international countries, with the United States of America and China having been considered the most attractive markets for their SME members.

The overall achievements prove the success of these partnerships: over the past 24 months, more than 2700 European Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) have been involved in activities targeting international third-markets, 370 Cluster-to-Cluster meetings and 3010 Business-to-Business meetings have been conducted, whilst 39 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been signed and 45 collaboration projects implemented.

Each EU Cluster Partnership (ESCP-4i) developed a series of joint actions for the benefit of their members (i.e. business missions, cooperation agreements, gateway services, export consortia, etc.) strengthening European SMEs access to specific third markets and putting in motion a long-term cooperation agenda with strategic partners in third countries.

An overview of the achievements of each partnership (for the 2016-2017 period) can be found here. This includes details on a series of new tools and innovative collaboration methods for enhancing SMEs internationalisation activities that could help inspire other cluster organisations and future EU Cluster Partnerships.

Thanks to the success of the first generation of EU Cluster Partnerships, the European Commission has decided to pursue this initiative with a second generation of 23 co-funded ESCP-4i’s .  These were launched at the beginning of 2018 and the complete  list of these new partnerships, including the cluster organisation members, number of SMEs involved and target countries can be found here.

The European Cluster Collaboration Platform actively supports the strategic cluster partnership community through dedicated services and tools, such as information pages, a specific ESCP-4i Forum aimed at facilitating exchanges and building synergies across EU Cluster Partnerships, sharing of third country information on the International Cooperation pages, dedicated partnering events and webinars, and much more.

A number of testimonials illustrate the success of the different partnerships:

Testimonial from Johan Mårtensson – Cluster Manager Packbridge:

“The project - Future materials and products for advanced smart packaging (AdPack) have provided Packbridge and its members the possibility to better understand the needs and challenges of the emerging market of advanced packaging. Together with the consortium we have developed a platform and a structure through ESCP that strengthen cross-border collaboration and internationalisation of SME within advanced packaging and materials.”


“A European multi-country delegation of sports clusters generates higher attractiveness to foreign countries and open doors that would be impossible otherwise on an individual basis, such as the General Administration of Sport of China, the Economic Department of Ogden (Utah) or other governmental institutions.”


 “(…) Our engagement in international and national networks, research projects and international academic exchange enables us to actively drive new developments in the fields of location-based services and spatial analytics. It is important to us having an active exchange with international project partners in projects like MobiGoIn – this is part of our internationalization strategy. An SME can’t just open offices in other countries – you have to follow a step-by-step approach. For this, you need reliable, open, and innovative partners. We are confident to find this kind of partners in the MobiGoIn project and the respective national clusters.”

Lyonbiopole, Auvergne Rhone Alpes Healthcare cluster, Emilie ROMEO - bioXclusters Plus coordinator:

“(…) Support to clusters’ alliance at a European level is crucial to transform the metacluster concept to a reality. First, it gives a concrete existence to a brand, to a name that represents a network and a true critical mass of SMEs. It gives existence to a joint strategy, by supporting the organization of missions and events bringing international players around the table. (…)”

Testimony from: Bruno Fornengo, CEO of Easyfor, a company from BioPMed:

“Easyfor participated to the BioXclusters plus initiative and worked with Fengling group, one of BioXclusters gateways for China. Easyfor received support to get a general understanding of the dental implant market in China, define a market access strategy and identify an ideal distributor for its products in the country. The support we received was very competent and allowed us to have a better picture of the Chinese market. We will now have to put into action what we have learned from it. (…)”

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