One of the major initiatives in the context of the Lisbon Agenda is to make Europe much more active and attractive in the field of research, new technologies and innovation. The revived Lisbon Strategy recognises that “Knowledge and innovation are the beating heart of European growth”.
Driven by innovation, clusters present a dynamic environment where networking, investment and technology transfer all happen. Such environment creates local jobs and drives the economic growth of a region and a country, this is why clusters and networking are increasingly considered as strategic resources. Participation in business networks improves the links and cooperation among enterprises and create possibilities for cluster development.
The situation in Bulgaria is very different from the situation in other EU countries. On average, every fourth company (employing at least 20 persons) in the European Union-25 works in a cluster-like environment. Bulgarian companies are lagging behind European SME in participation in clusters and clusters networks.
In recent years, groupings of enterprises have been established in some of the most dynamic sectors of the Bulgarian economy (wood processing, IT, tourism, apparel& textiles, wine) Cooperation within these groupings develops and transforms them into clusters.
With foreign support of USAID and GTZ in 2001 and 2002 a series of studies on the potential for development of business networks and clusters were conducted in Bulgaria. These studies showed potential for the successful development of clusters in a number of sectors of the economy. The state recognized clusters as an instrument of potentially quick economic development and started stimulating them. A National policy for cluster development was formulated and financial and methodological support for existing and potential clusters materialized.
Two cluster grand programs of the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism have been financed under PHARE Programme:
The first one, BG2003/004-937.02.03 „Introduction of cluster approach and establishment of cluster model”, ended successfully in 2006 with the development of a National Cluster Development Strategy, an Action Plan for implementation of the strategy and consultancy and investment support to two pilot clusters selected from amongst 40 existing or emerging clusters classified as worthy of state aid.
Under the second PHARE project from 2007 to 2009 ten clusters were supported.
ICT is one of the most dynamic sectors of the Bulgarian economy. In 2004 with the financial support of USAID, Bulgarian ICT Cluster was created. After many years of operation and development the organization gained a leading role in the cluster processes and cluster management in Bulgaria, especially in the field of ICT.
During the last 3 years, with the efforts of ICT Cluster, two clusters were created and received methodological and operational support:
Bulgarian Cluster „Telecommunications” (BCT) was founded under the initiative of ICT Cluster in the beginning of 2008 under a PHARE Project Establishment of Telecommunications Cluster and Development of Sustainable Cluster Strategy BG2005/017-586.04.02/ESC/G/CDI-II-003.
Cluster Microelectronics and Embedded Systems was founded in the beginning of 2010 year by 6 companies and 3 universities.