How do the Alpine regions implement their regional strategies for smart specialisation (S3)? And what is the role of cluster initiatives in this process? ‘ClusterAgentur’, a regional agency for cluster initiatives in Baden-Wuerttemberg, addressed this question as part of the inter-regional EU project entitled ‘Smart Specialisation Strategies to Build an Innovation Model for AlpClusters’ (‘S3-4AlpClusters’ for short). Its findings were that the regions have very different requirements and are therefore developing very different strategies. Nevertheless, something that the majority of the regions have in common is the active integration of cluster initiatives when implementing strategies.
The survey participants were numerous cluster managers, representatives from politics and other stakeholders from the eleven partner regions in Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland. The questions they were asked focussed on six different topics: What role do clusters play in S3 development? Is S3 in line with the national political strategies and with the strategies of the neighbouring regions? How is S3 being implemented in the region? At the cluster organisation, are there any tools in use to specifically monitor and evaluate S3? What impact does S3 have on the cluster organisations? And finally, how effective is the regional cluster portfolio?
For the last section of the stress test survey, the responses given by participants based in Baden-Wuerttemberg painted a particularly positive picture. The main reasons for this are the economic strength of this cluster, its long-term and sustainable policies and its focus on excellent professional management of the cluster organisations. The participants did also indicate that there is room for improvement in the way that the cluster is involved with the federal state’s S3 development. Nevertheless, they gave positive responses about the current implementation of the strategy and the respective role of the cluster initiatives.
The underlying hypothesis for the stress test was that successful clusters and effective cluster initiatives are particularly well-suited for the successful implementation of S3. Cluster initiatives should therefore have close involvement with and be used as a tool for regional development.
The ‘S3-4AlpClusters’ Inter-Regional Project
‘S3-4AlpClusters’ aims to facilitate sustainable and integrated growth by improving the implementation of strategies for smart specialisation (S3), with the help of clusters and cluster initiatives. Gathering a critical mass of stakeholders in relevant future-oriented fields, from the private sector and from the academic community is a crucial factor in achieving this aim.
On the whole, however, there is still not much expertise about how S3 can be successfully implemented in the case of clusters and cluster initiatives. For this reason, the project’s overarching aim is to improve the framework conditions for innovations that are initiated by clusters and small and medium-sized enterprises and to create new jobs.