NiCAT Cluster: Clusters, what can we do now? #COVID19

Submitted by Alina Danieles… on 24 March 2020

We share with you an article posted by Goran Mladenovic, CEO Nis Cluster of Advanced Technologies, Serbia, Europe, disseminating the cluster's experience in connecting to the cluster members in these difficult times: 

"For years, as clusters, we have been preaching collaboration, openness and sharing experiences. Today, when all the fragility of civilization we are a part of is shown, it is important to show that we remain connected and that our members truly have value, and that we are constantly sharing experiences and learning from each other, that we are partners in the most difficult moments.

As an organization, we have been doing ad hoc and systemic things the whole time, and we will briefly share our experience in the following:

  • We immediately canceled assemblies which were announced in March, before the virus even broke out
  • We are systematically exerting pressure on the state
  • A few days after the state of emergency was introduced, we contacted each of our members directly and asked them the following questions:
    1. How did you manage, how did your people manage and what problems do you have?
    2. How can the cluster help in your opinion?
    3. Do you have any examples of a good practice you would like to share?

Some companies responded immediately, and some responded via email.

  • At the same time, we opened the platforms we used exclusively for business topics to support one another in any area. We are a community of people and institutions that share the same values. During hard times we need to support each other.

Then we analyzed the responses of the companies, consulted with the colleagues from other clusters and organizations, and researched the best practices on the internet and sent suggestions for the following areas:

1. Financial insecurity – whether we will be financially capable in the next 3 months


  • Keep the relations with clients, estimate the situation together, keep in mind the long-term relations on both sides
  • Estimate with the employees whether to pay smaller wages as a preventive measure, and to compensate later. Let the employees know that the long-term stability is the highest priority for everyone
  • Delegate a part of your work to other companies if your workload increases, or report if you have any available capacities, to let people know

Suggestion for the state: postponement of loan payments, postponement of taxes and contribution payments, postponement of other tax liabilities

2. Safety – there are no masks, no disinfectants, and there will be none because of the inability to produce the quantity that is in demand


  • Find the ways to improvise in terms of hygiene and disinfection, thermal cameras if any, division of work space into stalls.
  • Check with the government and lobby them to include textile industries, prisons, volunteers, able-bodied social assistance recipients in the production of masks
  • The fact is that DIY masks do not protect us in the same way as the original do against the virus, but it has been proven (in consultation with physicians) that a strong, double-layered cotton fabric (that can be boiled clean) works, and an option in every household is a bed sheet. Coffee filters and vacuum bags are good options as well. We can do something ourselves.

Filters -

Pattern for mask

3. Work from home – many software companies have that as an option, but no one has worked 100% from home


  • Send advice to companies and employees on how to behave and what to pay attention to. Implementation of agile routines can definitely help (daily overview - what I did, what am I doing today, is there any obstacle – is help needed)
  • Understand the situation for each individual – maybe someone prefers working in the afternoon when their spouse comes back from work, maybe someone has a different kind of problem
  • It would be good to have HR or someone from the company talk with every employee once a week and ask them these three questions - Did you get used to working from home, How can we make it easier for you, Do you have any good practice to share with other colleagues

4. Psychological acceptance of the virus situation – concern


  • From commonplace – to not watch news 100 times a day to more expert advice on how to talk to someone who is in serious fear. These kinds of situations can lead to extreme stress – Grit – when people display uncharacteristic behavior for themselves
  • More common individual checks 1 on 1
  • Review Crisis management tips and Change management tips, and apply advice related to these elements

5. Legal aspect


  • Check if it is necessary to make annexes to the employment contracts or some regulations for work from home
  • Check all rights and legal regulations with accountants, lawyers or directly with representatives of competent institutions

We are inviting all our colleagues to write their comments and suggestions, and to use the suggestions from our text freely. In addition, we can send the documents we have developed to anyone who is interested if you contact us.

The beginning sentence shows our will to work with integrity towards excellence. But at the same time we need to act, experiment the whole time, learning from ours and mistakes of others, approach things analytically without hesitation. These are the times when we have to do many things aware that we are in an uncharted territory.

Bravely and with faith that we will draw conclusions from this and be better as a civilization, as an organization, and as individuals."

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