Increase excellence in the A.M. innovation cluster, based on European indicators. Improve the Regional policy instrument accordingly.
Within the ERDF ROP 14/20 T.O. I "Research, technological development and innovation" the Piedmont Region supports the strengthening of Innovation Clusters.
Sectoral Clusters support the Policy Maker in the strategic planning, the monitoring on the effectiveness of the regional instruments, the integration between the various instruments and programs for RDI available in the territory. Thus, they actively collaborate at the implementation of the RDI policy and have the mandate to increase the technology transfer of research results achieved by the regional system and to support the specialization in line with the S3.
MESAP is the innovation cluster for Smart Products and Manufacturing.
To be more competitive internationally, an increase in the level of excellence in clusters was pursued by the policy maker: the methodologies of the European Foundation for Cluster Excellence (EFCE) and the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA), were applied to analyse the MESAP cluster.
A detailed analysis based on an international benchmarking methodology (stress test) managed by ESCA was conducted, resulting in a report comparing MESAP with a portfolio of excellent clusters in Europe in the same technological/industrial sector. A comparison to clusters from the same country was also drawn, and recommendations to MESAP on how to improve its performance were provided.
The ESCA methodology also affected in some aspects the regional policy instrument for innovation clusters.
This initiative was co-funded by the EC under the CIP Programme. Nevertheless, ESCA is available to run cluster benchmarking aimed to provide the excellence label (Bronze, Silver, Gold). The activities of ESCA are acknowledged by many cluster policy stakeholders and by the EC – DG Growth.
Evidence of success
MESAP obtained the Bronze Label of Cluster Excellence, which ensured international visibility.
The regional call for cluster managers issued in 2016 included some ESCA indicators, which contributed to the improvement of the policy effectiveness.
Furthermore, MESAP developed an internal methodology: the performances of the cluster manager in its role to support the fostering of RDI can nowadays be measured and compared with the European ones.
The cluster assessment is complex and required preparation. Also, it can be difficult to accept weaknesses or failures highlighted by an external evaluator. Nevertheless, the MESAP team was ready to accept the observations from ECEI experts and afterwards was able to improve its potential.
Potential for learning or transfer
Based on this experience, MESAP was able to introduce an internal methodology for planning, setting objectives and measure results (key performance indicators) in line with the mission given by the RDI regional policy. Furthermore, the ESCA analysis helped to better focus the strategic priorities of the innovation cluster in the domain of A.M., and to define its international positioning with respect to the other clusters in A.M. in Europe.
This was also a learning experience for policy officers dealing with the ERDF ROP instrument “Innovation Clusters”: new selection criteria and indicators (qualitative and quantitative) were introduced in the call for cluster managers, which derived from the cluster excellence methodology, in order to increase the international competitiveness of the system. This rethinking of the regional instrument had the objective to contribute to introduce the international parameters of excellence into the real operation of regional innovation system.