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International intercluster meeting: Colombia meets Catalonia

  • Catalonia meets Colombia

ACCIÓ, the Catalan Agency for Competitiveness, organised a 3 day International Intercluster Meeting held on May the 30th, 31st and June 1st, to connect Catalonia clusters with a delegation of peers from Colombia.

It’s not a sporadic intercluster conference but a systematic instrument that ACCIÓ, in charge of cluster policy in Catalonia, organises every year. Norway, Denmark, Auvergne-Rhône Alpes, Basque Country-Navarra and Lombardia have been the invited territories in the past.

Colombia, probably the country with the strongest cluster agenda in Latin America, with more than 80 active cluster initiatives in place, with Bogotá and Medellín on the lead, has been the invited ecosystem in 2018. The Colombian delegation consisted of 15 cluster managers besides the executives in charge of cluster development from Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and Red Cluster Colombia (the National network of clusters).

The first track was based on sharing the cluster policy approach in both countries. As for Catalonia, it was pointed out that the 25 years of cluster history have been very much connected to the concept of strategic change (clusters as a tool to help companies changing the strategy into the right direction) but there’s has been also a shift towards cross-sectorial cluster initiatives, internationally connected and interclustering on a constant basis.

Concerning Colombia, the Red Clusters Colombia has been a key milestone in articulating a common framework for cluster development throughout the country, sharing a model for evaluation and interchanging best practices between regions. As regards to Bogotá, home of 16 cluster initiatives, it’s outstanding how they’re connecting clusters with Smart Specialisation Strategies.

The second track was focused on describing a Decalogue for fostering a robust cluster initiative. Some of the elements presented were related to the importance of having a shared vision for the future, building the cluster on uniqueness, understanding the public-private teamwork or hiring the right cluster manager.

A track on shared value highlighted both countries commitment with the introduction of this concept into cluster strategy. Both countries have been pioneers in embedding the shared value concept into cluster development, not just as a theoretical framework but as a specific strategic objective with clusters being the perfect tool to disseminate the concept to SMEs to help them understanding that economic value and social impact shouldn’t be any more a trade-off but 2 sides of the same coin.

The main goal of this international intercluster is not just exchanging knowledge but also to generate the context for new business development. To do so, the intercluster C2C meetings where every cluster manager had the chance of getting to know 3 cluster managers from the other country. As a result, more than 50 meetings were held with further potential international collaboration to be followed up.

On Day 2, the Colombian clusters were divided into 2 groups to experience cluster tours. On both tours the leitmotiv was to understand the cluster strategy, main challenges and specific transformational projects. All being presented by the cluster managers and cluster believers form companies.

On Day 3, Colombian clusters were offered a training on cluster management (profile, activities and main mistakes of a cluster manager); followed by a best practice session from both countries on evaluation and its challenges, such as, the intangibles, the human effect or recommendations to maximize companies’ engagement in actively participating.

The trust created during these 3 days besides several sectorial similarities such as fashion, health, food and energy may facilitate further cooperation.

This international meeting is a great example that the intercluster approach is a core competence of the Catalan cluster ecosystem.