First European Cluster Policy Forum sets an agenda for discussions with EU countries

National representatives from 25 EU countries, cluster policy experts and Commission officials talked about designing and implementing effective cluster policies by scaling up existing good practices. They learned about the latest development of European cluster initiatives and shared good practices to promote mutual cluster policy learning. The discussions addressed orientations, impacts and difficulties of EU, national and regional cluster initiatives.

Cluster policies in EU countries are at very different stages of development. In spite of these differences, all countries acknowledged the importance of strengthening national industrial ecosystems through cluster-driven growth. Common issues include reaching a critical mass of members in some sectors and coordination between the national and regional levels. Some countries flagged sustained funding of cluster-related initiatives as critical, while others noted the existing EU state-aid rules.

The Commission’s initiatives aimed at improving the management of cluster organisations and promoting cross-sectoral and international cluster linkages received strong support. EU countries also value the mutual learning aspect. They want to participate in the following European Cluster Policy Forums and demanded to continue the exchanges beyond the planned 3 meetings. Furthermore, based on the outcomes of the successful German, French and Romanian cluster weeks, many EU countries would like to follow suit.

Key conclusions of the 1st European Cluster Policy Forum: 

- Cross-sectoral and cross-regional data on clusters across the EU is being gathered but an open discussion on the subject is needed 
- Awareness should be raised about existing synergies between cluster initiatives and policies, especially regarding smart specialisation, SMEs scaling-up and cross-sectoral collaboration (e.g. with the organisation of the European Cluster Week)
- More mutual cluster policy discussions and interactive mutual learning events are needed to exchange experiences
- Based on these conclusions EU countries intend to tackle the following topics during future forums: 
- Better use of clusters in support of entrepreneurship and the scaling-up of SMEs 
- Fostering cluster internationalisation – using strategic cluster partnerships to help clusters and their members go international 
-The impact of state-aid programmes on clusters 
-Cluster excellence - supporting capacity-building and the professionalisation of cluster management (incl. Erasmus for cluster managers)

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