The First European Cluster Accelerator Programme launched  in Frankfurt – building the Clusters of Change movement

Submitted by Alina Danieles… on 27 October 2019

How to take clusters to the next level and drive industry-minded innovation

20 cluster managers, practitioners and innovation ecosystem builders in the cleantech sector attended an intense four-day bootcamp with the key learning that meaningful and sustainable change needs bold actions. As a hands-on training, the first edition of TheCAP, Europe’s new cluster accelerator programme took place from 14 to 17 October 2019 at Frankfurt’s Provadis School of International Management and Technology and introduced participants from eleven European countries to practical tools and methods to take their cluster to the next level.

“Clusters can make a big shift and multiply impact exponentially on what matters for the future of Europe. We can lead change in the implementation of the new EU Green Deal and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through effective, innovative cluster approaches,” says Bianca Dragomir, who led the TheCAP bootcamp together with two other European cluster experts. The European Cluster Manager of the Year (2016/2018) and CEO of the AVAESEN cleantech cluster in Spain is behind the “Clusters of Change” concept, which serves as TheCAP’s core motif and is based on her industry insights: “There are now more than 2500 clusters in Europe, which means we have reached a critical mass to matter. However, faced with pressing global challenges we need novel cluster business models, break the 'conventioal wisdom', act with speed and focus, and scale up fast to become Europe’s drivers of growth globally.”

Having inspired participants to go back to their clusters as leaders of change, with a clear roadmap on how to implement a strategy that addresses typical cluster issues from member engagement to funding and commercialising innovation, the bootcamp provided practical tools and methods that each cluster representative could tailor and personalise for their specific situation and needs. The know-how and insights from the coaches fed directly and very practically into the participants’ current realities, be it working on a funding pitch or planning member engagement activities. In this context, moving away from acting as a static network of stakeholders to a living innovation-driven entity that puts industry at its centre and is collaborative, inter-connected as well as working across sectors and disciplines, emerged as a key takeaway for the participants.

“We know from our own involvement with innovation networks that running a cluster is a highly complex job that most people are not necessarily sufficiently prepared for. With TheCAP, we want to address this training gap, providing cluster managers with practical tools to build ecosystems for systemic change and creating a network of professionals that can support and learn from each other,” says Hannes Utikal, Head of the Center for Industry and Sustainability at Provadis School of International Management and Technology that organised the EIT Climate-KIC funded bootcamp.

Participants particularly profited from peer-to-peer learning as one of the key workshop elements, alongside the expert input from the coaches, EU cluster experts who provided information on the European smart investment scene for clusters and how to attract foreign investment, as well as cluster best practice presented by cluster managers from across Europe. In a next step, TheCAP, which was supported by DG GROW and ECCP, now plans to build a dedicated cluster manager qualification programme to scale skills and know-how in support of establishing Europe as a global center of cluster excellence.

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