Transversal changes such as digital transformation needs close collaboration of all actors in the innovation system, providers and users, public and private entities, researchers and businesses across sectors and disciplines.

Clusters, usually involving all those actors as members and partners, can play a crucial role in fostering digital transformation for the benefit of the region they are located in. Cluster managers can act as change agents. They help finding business and research partners to develop solutions in cooperation.

They are not the only, but at least important “translators” between companies and policy makers facilitating communication in both directions on required and offered policies. They interact also with other institutions in the eco system such as Digital Innovation Hubs, etc. Thus, changing regional clusters policies will trigger the transformation of the industry in a larger scale.

In the framework of the INTERREG project, 10 partners have joined forces to learn, understand and share experiences in the design, implementation and monitoring of cluster and digitalization policies. The common goal is to increase the rate of clusters that develop activities to support digital transformation.

All partners identified best practices, they offer to share, as well as areas for improvement and learning from other partners based on individual SWOT analyses carried out with their regional/national stakeholders. The results show a heterogeneous landscape of policies. Aspects identified as strength in one region, might be considered a weakness in another.

This short video is an attempt to give an overview and to highlight the topics that the majority of partners considered important, whether as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats. 

As a first step in the project all partners invited the relevant stakeholders in their region/country to develop a common picture of what exists, what are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, what could be considered a best practice to be shared and what are areas, where they want to learn from other partners (improvement areas) regarding the following dimensions:

  • Relevant Policies (strategies and funding Programmes) for clusters and/or digital transformation.
  • Support for companies / cluster members for digital transformation .
  • Support for cluster management (or similar) organisations .
  • Coordination & interaction of the main actors in the innovation ecosystem, such as policy makers, cluster managers and other innovation service providers, representatives of the business and science community .
  • Cluster activities to support digital transformation .

The partners presented and discussed the individual SWOT analyses at the INNO Industry project meeting in Austria on 3 March 2020. The discussion showed similarities:

  • Digital transformation is high on the agenda at the strategy level of all partner regions / countries.
  • The main challenges are maintaining and developing skilled workforce, raising awareness of benefits of digital technologies and new business models especially in small companies.
  • A fragmented, broad range of funding instruments and support services for digital transformation.
  • A growing importance of Digital Innovation Hubs as new partners in the innovation ecosystem.

However, the discussion also showed heterogeneity in:

  • Cooperation culture in general, but especially between private and public actors, companies and policy makers.
  • The term “cluster” is understood in various ways in different European countries; using the same word for different things (agglomeration, business consortium, innovation ecosystem, etc.) rather causes confusion than a common language.
  • Cluster policies in the partner regions/countries range from not existent to being the core of the economic or innovation policy; the same applies for cluster managers, who strongly involved in designing and implementing innovation and smart specialization strategies in some regions and hardly recognized as innovation actors in others.