9 Catalan clusters have raised 560,000 euros from the European Commission (EC) to promote internationalization projects of SMEs that are part of them. This represents 6.5% of the total aid from the EC’s Clusters Go International call within the framework of the COSME program, which has a total budget of 8.6 million euros and in which 78 clusters from 20 countries participate.
Thus, the funding ratio obtained by Catalan clusters (6.5%) is much higher than that of Catalonia’s population in the European Union (1.5%). To access these funds (via competitive tendering), the Catalan clusters have had the support of Catalonia Trade & Investment, the Catalan Government’s agency for business competitiveness. All the clusters that submitted their applications have obtained funding.
The grants will enable clusters to carry out 2-year projects to develop a joint internationalization strategy for all the SMEs that are part of these organizations or the implementation of this strategy through market research studies, international missions or B2B meetings with other companies around the world. The projects of the Catalan clusters are the following:
- CENFIM (household equipment and contract cluster) and Catalan Water Partnership: CENFIM leads the Welliance project -the Catalan Water Partnership and clusters from Belgium, Germany and France also take part in it- to supply European SMEs of the construction and hotel equipment sectors with the information and contacts to expand into the United States, Mexico and South Africa markets.
- MODACC and Clúster Digital de Catalunya: MODACC leads the European project Fascinate, which aims to promote the internationalization of companies in the textile and fashion industry with the incorporation of elements related to circularity and sustainability and through digital technologies. The Clúster Digital de Catalunya and organizations from Denmark, Bulgaria and Portugal also take part in the initiative.
- Solartys and Catalan Water Partnership participate in the Green & Small Smart Cities project which also involves clusters from Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic to support the internationalization strategy of European SMEs of these organizations with sustainable technological solutions in areas such as energy infrastructures, renewable energy solutions, rational use of resources, lack of connectivity or water treatment, among others.
- Beauty Cluster: The Global Cosmetics Cluster Europe project will promote the internationalization of SMEs in the fields of cosmetics and perfumery through the organization of business missions, market research, trends and training in companies.
- secpho and Packaging Clúster: these two Catalan organizations are part of the European initiative FoodpackLab 2 to promote cooperation between SMEs from different European countries and collaborate in the development of innovative solutions to export them to India and South Africa with the aim of reducing food waste.
- CICAT: the Catalan cluster CICAT, specializing in the field of light technology, participates in the ELCA4i project with the ELCA European Lighting Cluster Alliance and the lighting clusters of France and Italy to carry out joint actions with European SMEs to promote their internationalization to the United States and Canada, mainly.
Catalan clusters with the international Gold Label of excellence
As a matter of fact, five out of these Catalan clusters (Packaging Cluster, MODACC, Catalan Water Partnership, Beauty Cluster and secpho) have received this year the Gold Label of the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA). This one of the most prestigious global recognitions in the field of clusters, which analyzes indicators such as funding, strategy or the qualification of the managing team in these organizations -which Catalan cluster FEMAC already got in 2012-. Therefore, currently 10% of European clusters having the Gold Label are Catalan.
To receive the Gold Label, 30 cluster indicators are analyzed, including those related to financing, governance, strategy, composition (whether the organization has a presence of multinationals, SMEs, startups, universities or technology centers) or the qualifications of the managing team. Having this certificate allows clusters to increase their visibility and international positioning, as well as offering access to other leading European clusters to carry out joint projects and improvement processes.
What is a cluster?
A cluster is an association of companies (startups, SMEs and multinationals) and other agents (universities and technology centers) in a specific economic field that share resources, generate synergies and project themselves internationally. It helps its members improve their competitiveness through the development of joint transformation projects and the definition of strategic challenges for their sector. In Catalonia, clusters represent 30% of GDP (74 billion euros of aggregate turnover) and generate more than 300,000 jobs. They have more than 2,600 members, who represent a diverse network of actors, as 70% are SMEs, 13% are large companies, 10% are research centers, universities and knowledge providers; 4.5% of startups, among other agents in the environment.
Currently, 29 clusters are part of the Catalunya Clusters program of Catalonia Trade & Investment, an initiative promoted to support Catalan clusters to help them focus on their strategy, train cluster managers, co-finance strategic projects and organize trips to reference ecosystems to do international benchmarking and closing collaboration projects between Catalan clusters or with international entities, among other initiatives.