EU Cluster Conference 2019

This week was the 2019 EU Cluster Conference, an annual event held over three days in the Palaces of Parliament, Bucharest.

The event provides a unique chance to discuss recent and future developments in cluster policy in order to support innovative, sustainable industrial modernisation and interregional cooperation to connect different actors among the international cluster community.

Platform’s Chair Peter Rudge was in attendance. Here, he shares a few of his thoughts on the event and the importance of clusters and connecting ecosystems.

Clusters and Ecosystems

I’ve been in Bucharest this week at the EU Cluster Conference. It’s been an interesting couple of days with discussions around the changing nature of clusters, the political, social and economic volatility and the ever-increasing pace of technological and industrial change.

The theme of the conference – connecting ecosystems – is highly relevant but something that many local, regional, and national governments are yet to really engage with.

There has been some recognition of this in the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, with an emphasis placed on the value of clusters. However, while supporting clusters and cluster initiatives is important, clusters themselves also need to recognise that their activities can no longer just be holding networking events and running a few workshops.

Clusters need to be orchestrating and leading the development of complete innovation and growth ecosystems.

It’s important however to make a distinction here. Business ecosystems are nothing new, but are usually described in terms of the supply and distribution chains that businesses engage with.

Moving Forward

The ecosystems required over the next 5 to 10 years are more about the education and skills pipeline, targeted R&D collaborations, start-up support, access to finance so that successful start-ups can successfully scale-up and cluster organisations that can be the framework in which all of these elements sit effectively and efficiently.

The pace of technological and industrial change is only going to accelerate and the ability of SME’s in particular to manage that change and effectively allocate resources to it is going to be severely challenged. And that is where clusters can play a crucial role.

By acting as the driver, advocate, and glue that brings together – and holds together – multiple partners, clusters can establish and stabilise those delicate innovation ecosystems that everyone wants to see. In effect, clusters become the structures through which local and regional growth strategies can most effectively be implemented.

That’s not the easiest message to give to local or regional governments and development agencies that traditionally have led this process, but it’s not about clusters supplanting those organisations. It about plugging local and expert clusters into the process, working in partnership to make sure that resources are targeted and used for maximum impact, and recognising that impact in the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is not really going to be about transport infrastructure and industrial estates. It’s going to be about creative technologies, industrial – not just digital – transformation, and a skills pipeline that is far more inclusive.

That is where clusters really need to be, and it’s why they need to transform into orchestrators of the fragile sector ecosystems that they support.

For more information on the event, please visit

Visit to find out more about Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s moving image cluster.