At a participative TCI Cluster Evaluation workshop hosted by Cork Institute of Technology on the 14th and 15th of May 2018, the themes of cluster and smart specialisation evaluation were discussed in depth by participants from Ireland, Europe and the US. The Competitiveness Institute (TCI) is the leading global network of organisations with deep expertise in clusters and competitiveness.

Across many countries in Europe, Cluster Organisations are used as an economic development tool to increase innovation, growth and employment in member firms – through collaborative research, skills and training programmes and internationalisation initiatives. Such cluster programmes are promoted, funded and developed by national and regional government and are aligned to regional Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3). Smart specialisation is an innovative approach that aims to boost growth and jobs in Europe, by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages and to promote diversification and resilience within the economy.

CIT are heavily involved in research pertaining to clustering and economic competitiveness and are involved in the Interreg Europe ecoRIS3 project which focuses on promoting better policies and measures to generate solid interactions between key stakeholders and orchestrate sustainable innovation ecosystems across Europe.

Dr James Wilson, Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness, when addressing participants on the benefits of clusters as an innovative policy tool noted that “clusters are well positioned to play a key role in European territorial strategies and are doing so in many regions. They are Ideal spaces for ‘discovery’ because they bring together key firms, universities and government agents. Their social-territorial-collaborative roots also make them extremely useful in terms of responding to societal challenges at a European level”.

The workshop provided an ideal setting for participants from CIT, UCC, Cork City and County Councils, Local Enterprise Offices, National Development Agencies and Cork Chamber, to interact with practitioners from TCI to advance the practice of competitiveness, innovation and cluster development. Simultaneously, it also provided a showcase for sharing of good practices from Interreg Europe funded projects ecoRIS3, Clusters3 and ClusteriX 2.0 which all focus on elements of clustering and competitiveness strategies.

Dr John Hobbs, Senior Lecturer in Economics and PI of the V-LINC research group which focuses on clustering and competitiveness research in the School of Business CIT has been an advocate for the introduction of a formalised ‘Cluster Policy’ for Ireland. He said “having the TCI Cluster Evaluation working group meeting in Cork – has provided strong evidence of the success of a co-ordinated clustering and competitiveness policy at a regional level for the local authorities and national development agencies attending. I hope the advantages of clustering outlined by our visitors will be actioned upon – and allow us to transition beyond a 1 to 1 development approach from state agencies for business supports to a clustering approach where companies innovate together through collaborative programmes and partnership.”

Ms. Eileen Crowley, research fellow at the V-LINC research group in CIT said “this was a great opportunity for local stakeholders to interact with competitiveness experts from Sweden, Norway, Catalonia, the Basque Country and the US to learn from their work pertaining to clustering and cluster evaluation. It was insightful to hear about the good practices promoted in the Interreg Europe ecoRIS3, Clusters3 and ClusteriX 2.0 projects – and to assess their relevance for Ireland.

Gerard O’Donovan, Head of Faculty of Business and Humanities at Cork Institute of Technology said “hosting the TCI Cluster Evaluation Working Group was an excellent opportunity to learn and share ideas with cluster managers, policy makers and academics involved in some of Europe’s top clusters. Especially in the context of Ireland’s DBEI Action Plan for Jobs goals of strengthening clusters and realising enterprise opportunities; promoting innovation; and stimulating regional growth.”

Further information on the TCI network is available through http://www.tci-network.org/about_us, whilst more detail on the activities of the Cluster Evaluation Working group and their activities are available here http://www.tci-network.org/evaluation


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