‘We are humans and our nature is to fly’…
Stephen Hawking said it, cluster leaders prove it. As a cluster leader myself, my daily routine is to multiply impact as quickly as possible, to as many people as possible, as consciously as possible. Like a ripple effect.
Sparking energy, information flows, (re)bonding (new) value chains, integrating multiple voices, leveraging money, making investors sweat equity, daring to disrupt. Basically, tapping into everything that can move the industry forward. Clusters are givers and orchestrators by nature. In this lies their essence. This can be both their Achilles’ heel and their extraordinary power. When they work with focus, at speed and scale, on missions that matters (for people and planet), they generate overlapping ripples of change that catapult industries into the future.
Clusters are powerful beyond measure.
The coronavirus ‘Black Swan’ pandemic has provided rocket fuel for clusters to punch above their weight. They proved ‘antifragile’ at a time that was highlighting our most fragile relationship with the planet. For instance, more than 1100 offers were gathered by the European clusters in one single week to overcome the supply chain disruption of PPE when the ‘just in time’ schemes broke. Resilience is, therefore, a network function. And a good network, one that catalyzes the velocity of change, is now the only currency that matters.
So the irruption of disorder in our industries and lives have held a magnifying glass on European clusters. This shows clusters can be the spark engines of industry (re)growth, crisis-proofing SMEs and helping to navigate the rough seas of the pandemic.
For more than a year now, the pandemic has been imprinting itself upon the world’s psyche. While the end of this pandemic is still a while away, industrial clusters are now called to double punch above their weight: our input is now being sought to bring ‘skin in the game’ and orchestrate Europe’s boldest, most strategic, large-scale projects for the Green Recovery, on top of sustaining the industrial disruptions caused by COVID-19.
How can we, European clusters, catch this wind in our sails?
Europe – and the world – needs impact clusters at scale.
Today, industry is grappling with an unprecedented rate of transformation. Some sectors are disrupting themselves, from within. The world of energy is blending.
Think of energy digitalization: multi-trillion euro markets being reshaped by the least usual market players, the ‘Km 0 energy’ revolution, SMEs ‘uber’-izing self-consumption in local renewable energy communities powered by citizens.
New – active – business models that show that energy has become the new internet and we live a paradigm shift. Incremental innovation or single-point solutions or technologies are simply not enough anymore.
Industry has been partnering shamelessly in new ways for a while now, co-creating new business models and novel solutions that integrate multiple needs, that of business, research, investment and society at the same time.
At this turning point of Europe’s innovation chapter, we are all on a journey of becoming a better version of our(business)selves. The European clusters are at different stages in their journey. From clusters in-the-making to superclusters (in-the-making).
But Europe’s main fear is delay. On a race around the clock to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, we need to innovate at a speed and scale humankind has never seen before. Europe is currently delivering 30% of the scientific papers and only 7% of the innovation to market worldwide. The next decade will decide if the century is going to be Chinese, American or European. High stakes, high games.
In Europe there are currently 3,000 clusters. A quarter of the jobs are in clusters. We know that productivity in European clusters is 25% more than average productivity and SMEs create more jobs, better paid and bring more innovation to market.
Being in a cluster is like climbing a mountain and receiving a jet pack.
The issue: a critical mass of inward-looking, one-dimensional, subsidy-reliant clusters. Innovation is either publicly funded and research driven, or entrepreneurial and finance/VC-driven.
The imperative: a critical mass of outward-focused, multi-dimensional and financially diversified clusters. Engines of growth, innovation ecosystems that are agile, open, interconnected and active entities, uniting all players in shared value and co-creating innovative ventures with their members. Clusters spawning repeatable, scalable business models, propelling our industry into the driver’s seat of the 21st century. Today.
This is an excerpt of the full essay written by Bianca Dragomir in the Cluster Business Models report by Strategy Tools. To read the full essay, download the report here.