Clusters constitute a significant part of the European industrial landscape. Their role is crucial for boosting collaboration and connecting enterprises, especially SMEs, thus building bridges across Europe’s ecosystems. They support innovation take-up, internationalisation and scaling-up of SMEs, helping them access global value chains, and act as change agents in the digital and green transformation.
There are around 3000 specialised clusters in Europe, accounting for 54 million jobs. Present everywhere in the EU, they nurture growth and jobs, besides showing resilience during economic crises. The renewed EU industrial policy strategy recognises clusters as a powerful economic development tool to support industrial innovation on the ground.
One of COSME's flagship project that has provided clusters with a platform for networking and growth since 2015 is the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), which counts with a mapping of more than 1,200 European and international clusters, and 61 cluster associations.
The platform serves as a unique one-stop shop for information, learning and collaboration opportunities for industrial clusters across Europe seeking to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of Europe’s economy and industry, particularly SMEs, by improving their performance in terms of productivity, innovation, internationalisation and resource efficiency. The platform is also open to stakeholders in third countries willing to set up partnerships with EU counterparts.
Clusters can register their profiles and have access to extensive information on open calls and funding opportunities, events organised by the ECCP and the cluster community, check updated news or get inspired by a selection of success stories. They can also find partners via the search tool.
The platform is also home to the European Cluster Partnerships, a pool of resources and knowledge to work concretely on joint strategies. The objective of the partnerships is to undertake actions in the common interest of their SME members to boost economic growth and competitiveness in Europe. The partnerships are developed around four key topics:
- International (ESCP-4i): it aims to develop and implement joint internationalisation strategies to support SME internationalisation towards third countries.
- Smart Specialisation (ESCP-3S): the selected partnerships facilitate cluster cooperation in thematic areas related to regional smart specialisation strategies and increase the industry's involvement in the context of the Smart Specialisation Platform for Industrial Modernisation.
- Excellence (ESCP-4x): it aims at facilitating cross-cluster networking and learning, to support the professionalisation of specialised and customised business support services to SMEs. The action will help drive the development of cluster management excellence and the formation of strategic cross-regional collaboration between industrial clusters across Europe.
- Innovation (INNOSUP): this initiative, funded by Horizon 2020, addresses the challenge to develop new cross-sectoral industrial value chains across the EU by building upon the innovation potential of SMEs.
If you are an SME struggling to access value chains, we encourage you to join a cluster, as it is the solution to obtain key technical assistance and move your innovations forward. The European Cluster collaboration platform (ECCP) can help you find the right cluster to join via its helpful mapping tool.
Are you part of a cluster already? Apart from all the benefits the platform offers, you can also apply for their ClusterXchange mobility scheme! Your stay will allow you to acquire new skills, improve your services, access internationalisation opportunities and much more.
And all this work doesn’t end here! We will continue supporting clusters via the SME pillar of the new Single Market Programme. Under the new funding period, the aim is to streamline all initiatives under a new flagship, the “Joint Cluster Initiative”, which will seek to create new business opportunities for SMEs and integrate them better in European and global strategic value chains.
42 million euro are allocated for a first call for proposals that is planned to be launched in the second half of 2021 and will target to fund up to 30 cluster partnerships. 75% of the grant will be directed to SMEs, to finance services in support of their resilience, green and digital transformation (e.g. vouchers for support services, or free access and support to use testing facilities).
In addition to that, the European Cluster Collaboration Platform will continue offering European clusters the necessary infrastructure for collaborating and providing support services.
For more information on the Single Market Programme you can read the official press release and have a look at the factsheet.
- Publication date
- 9 August 2021