‘Make clusters stronger to make Europe greener, more digital and resilient’ says Commissioner Breton at European Cluster Conference 2020

Submitted by Lee Gibson on 12 November 2020

Key stakeholders from across Europe have gathered online for the first ever fully virtual European Cluster Conference.

The European Commission’s flagship annual cluster event brought together cluster managers, cluster organisations, associations and partnerships and their members to debate and shape the future of cluster policy in Europe. The event was open to 1,000 people attending and taking part over two days.

A packed programme was organised by the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, under the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and delivered by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform.

The event brought together 82 expert speakers from the European Commission, Member States, key stakeholder networks, cluster organisations and business in plenary sessions and panel discussions, while thematic and sector-specific workshops as well as a quiz, a virtual exhibition, pitching and matchmaking sessions offered plenty of opportunity to learn, network and make new connections.

Some 52 countries were represented by participants and attendees from not only Europe but also Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

The main takeaways:

  • Clusters are drivers and enablers of change in the context of the green and digital transitions and building resilience as Europe recovers from COVID-19
  • International and interregional collaboration through clusters is a key tool for supporting innovation, industrial modernisation and the scaling up of SMEs as well as the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce
  • The right partners – policymakers, SME intermediaries and industry – need to be involved
  • Funding opportunities, dedicated support, new initiatives and sustainable partnerships are needed to advance collaboration in specialised sectors and ecosystems

The conference was opened by European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, alongside Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Both stressed the key role that clusters must play in helping the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, boosting the competitiveness and internationalisation of businesses whilst fostering the green and digital transitions of the European economy.

European Cluster Conference 2020

Commissioner Breton said: “This event illustrates how important collaboration and clusters are for our economy, now more than ever.”

“Together we are strong, connected we are resilient and autonomous.”

Minister Altmaier said: “Clusters help us make full sense of the benefits of the Single Market and by networking they can create added benefits.”

He also announced that Germany’s ‘Go Cluster’ Programme will join the European Clusters Alliance, making it the 14th country to be represented.

Speeches and high-level discussions followed on the role of public authorities and business during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, concluding that clusters provide an essential link between local and national policymakers and industry, as well as how clusters can support recovery.

During the conference 16 organisations pitched ideas for contacts.

A series of breakout sessions on day 1 showcased how clusters have specifically addressed green issues, digitalisation, building resilience and improving skills and how this could be further developed, after which participants could discuss in 104 world Cafés in small groups.

Day 1 concluded with a session on the EU Financial landscape in which four projects received feedback from the EIB, EASME and a financial expert.

Much of day two focused on how clusters can strengthen industrial ecosystems, with 14 different breakout sessions each concentrating on a specific sector with input from relevant authorities, cluster organisations and key stakeholders.

Three awards were handed out. The Awards this year focused on communications aspects of cluster management and partnerships.

European Cluster Conference 2020 awards

Attendees voted for the European Cluster Manager of the Year 2020 after hearing pitches from the three shortlisted candidates. The award went to Uwe Pfeil of the E-Mobility and IT-Logistics clusters in Germany

The award for the European Cluster Partnership of the Year went to IoT4Industry.

A Special Award for EU Cluster Mobilisation 2020 also went to Antonio Novo Guerrero, of Cluster IDiA in Spain and President of the European Clusters Alliance, for his work during the pandemic which included setting up the European Alliance Against Coronavirus.

The event was closed by Ulla Engelmann, of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Sabine Maass of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

Alongside the conference, the Intra-European Cluster Matchmaking event on 11 and 12 November gave cluster and business network organisations the chance to connect, communicate and collaborate through pre-arranged one-to-one online meetings.

Event resources

Reflect on the European Cluster Conference 2020, or catch-up on sessions you missed, with these resources:

Currently open European Commission calls for proposals for Clusters

Clusters Go International

European Cluster Excellence Programme with ClusterXchange scheme connecting ecosystems and cities

Strategic alliances for the uptake of advanced technologies by SMEs on the economic recovery

European Cluster Conference 2020
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