Clusters and Next Generation EU

Clusters and Next Generation EU, article prepared by Mrs. Elena KOPANAROVA, EU Funding Department manager of OECON GROUP-Business and Management Consultants Greece

“Industrial clusters are groups of specialized enterprises, often SMEs, and other related supporting actors in a location that cooperate closely. Together, SMEs can be more innovative, create more jobs, and register more international trademarks and patents than alone. The EU cluster portal provides tools and information on European initiatives, actions and events for clusters and their SMEs to create more world-class clusters across the EU.”
Industrial Cluster Policy of the European Commission


Since the beginning of the pandemic, European clusters and agents demonstrated their capability to react quickly, better than in China, US and other continents. The role of clusters is crucial in identifying the needs of European industries and where to allocate future investments. For these reasons, clusters will play a key role in how to support the recovery plan for Europe.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, clusters reaction at EU level has been forceful: a collective mobilization with the quick identification of disruptions and the creation of the European Rapid Alert Function, led by the European Clusters Alliance together with European Commission. It is a constant framework destinated to evidence problems in regulation, coordination, and funding, and all the consequent actions, as one of the main innovations in public policy never implemented.

Clusters can respond as quickly as possible to what the industry needs; they are business generators, magnets for talents and investors. Clusters are the best tool to promote European ecosystems and to recover internationally reputation of our industries on the global markets.

During 2014-20 a variety of Cluster initiatives have been financed from COSME and Horizon2020, such as:

  • Cluster S3 Partnerships (2018) action of the COSME Framework Programme of the European Commission contribute to boost industrial competitiveness and investment within the EU.
  • EU Clusters GO-International (2016-17) (2018-19) (2020-22) to intensify cluster and business network collaboration across borders and sectorial boundaries, and to support the establishment of ‘European Strategic Cluster Partnerships’ to lead international cluster cooperation in fields of strategic interest in non-EU countries.
  • EU Clusters – excellence (2018) of COSME to strengthen cluster management excellence and facilitate exchanges and strategic partnering between clusters and specialized eco-systems across Europe, including through implementing a new “ClustersXchange” pilot scheme. As high-quality cluster management and strategic connections between clusters are key elements of world-class clusters, the call aims to foster SME competitiveness and assist companies to successfully access global markets by exploiting the innovation and growth potential that clusters can offer.
  • The ClusterXchange pilot (2020) to facilitates transnational cooperation, peer learning, networking and innovation uptake between actors of different industrial clusters. It is implemented with support from cluster organizations that have teamed up in the European Cluster Partnerships | Excellence.

Additionally, during the period 2015-2020, INNOSUP-1 aims to support 2,000 SMEs directly (€ 130 million) and 30 projects were funded.

To help in the implementation of the updated industrial strategy, the European Commission will launch around 30 cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary and trans-European strategic Joint Cluster Initiatives to be called ‘Euroclusters’. The EUROCLUSTERS will contribute to the implementation of the European Commission’s New Industrial Strategy for Europe, as well as its updated Strategy that was published in May 2021 and the SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe adopted in March 2020, by building resilience and accelerating transition to green and digital economy.

Euroclusters should put forward proposals for how to initiate, develop and maintain an EU-level long-term strategic partnership between companies of different kinds and sizes (with an emphasis on SMEs), and other organizations such as research and knowledge institutions, science and technology parks, business support organizations, financial service providers, non-profit organizations and related public bodies across different EU Member States and COSME participating countries, bringing together a critical mass of firms and societies in geographical and functional proximity, which are economically and socially interdependent.

They will be expected to demonstrate how they will work together effectively with other support actors and networks such as the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, Enterprise Europe Network, and European Digital Innovation Hubs. Euroclusters must also support SMEs and they will be expected to demonstrate how they will organise such support in line with the overall Eurocluster long-term strategy.

Proposals must aim at achieving all of the following specific objectives, with the focus on at least one leading objective:

  • Network for resilience to improve the resilience of the EU industrial ecosystems by developing value chains interlinkages in the EU Single Market.
  • Innovate for strategic autonomy to build capacity in the most critical supplies and technologies of their ecosystems.
  • Adopt processes and technologies to reinforce transformation into a greener and more digital economy.
  • Train to foster up- and re-skilling of the workforce whilst attracting talents.
  • Go international to boost access to global supply and value chains.

Also, the proposals should be focused on one of the following 15 strands:

  • Open Strand: this strand invites proposals focused on cross fertilization of various industrial ecosystems with no specific focus on one industrial ecosystem.

14 Industrial Ecosystem Strands:

  • Tourism,
  • Mobility-Transport-Automotive,
  • Aerospace & Defense,
  • Construction,
  • Agri-food,
  • Energy Intensive Industries,
  • Textile,
  • Creative & Cultural Industries,
  • Digital,
  • Renewable Energy,
  • Electronics,
  • Retail,
  • Proximity & Social Economy, and

Target audience: cluster organizations and cluster networks (for more information and definitions please refer to the call text, section 6) or other types of organizations supporting green and digital transitions and building EU resilience and the available budget is EUR 42 000 000.

Currently have been open the call for SMP-COSME-2021-CLUSTER-01: Euroclusters for Europe’s recovery (SMP-GFS – SMP Grants for Financial Support) with deadline 30th of November 2021.

The commission have planned an info day for the ‘Euroclusters’ initiatives at 20 of October 2021.

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