“Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, firms in related industries, and associated institutions in particular fields that compete but also cooperate”.
Michael E. Porter in On Competition (1998)
“Cluster initiatives are organized efforts to increase the growth and competitiveness of clusters within a region, involving cluster firms, government and/or the research community”.
Örjan Sölvell, Göran Lindqvist & Christian Ketels in The Cluster Initiative Greenbook (2003)
Clusters are becoming an increasingly important for policy development in areas related to competitiveness and innovations. The Innobarometer 2006 on “cluster’s role in facilitating innovation in Europe” confirmed that companies situated in clusters are more innovative and finally more competitive than companies outside the clusters.
In its conclusion of December 2006 the Competitiveness Council of European Union identified clusters as one of nine priorities. The Council’s conclusions describe clustering as a priority area for actions to be taken in support of innovations.
European Commission emphasises the relevance of clusters to achieve the Lisbon goal to become by 2010, “the most competitive and dynamic knowledgebased economy in the world” and established a High-Level Advisory Group on Clusters and supports several activities in this field under the PRO INNO Europe initiative (e.g. European Cluster Alliance) and the Europe INNOVA initiative (e.g. European Cluster Observatory).
In 2008 the European Cluster Memorandum and the Commission Communication for development of world- class clusters was adopted.
National and regional governments recognised the potential of clusters as a driver of regional development policy. By taking determinedactions public authorities can significantly improve cluster development. This results in strengthening local economies, creating new jobs and attracting new investors. This is why many cluster initiatives have recently been launched. Some countries have included cluster policy in national development plans, while others pursue regional policy models. It has become clear that only decisive measures can strengthen regional clusters and lead to a successful regional policy.
Recently 38 % of all European employees work in industries that concentrate regionally – in clusters. Many studies have found that companies within clusters achieve higher levels of productivity and innovation and that clusters are environments start ups exhibits higher survival rates and growth.
Clusters are directly connected to prosperity and they are a central part of many economic strategy.
On European level the following instruments have been developed in order to create an efficient environment for cluster development support:
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.
ICT Cluster supported methodologically the establishment of ICT Cluster –Varna and is one of the co-founders and driving forces of the Association of Business Clusters in Bulgaria.
Managing the transition towards a knowledge-based economy is the key challenge for the EU in the framework of Lisbon Strategy adopted in March 2000. Success should ensure a competitive and dynamic economy with more and better jobs and a higher level of social cohesion. Series of supporting initiatives and actions providing financial support, establishment of new forms of business support and facilitation of transnational cooperation in order to mobilize more resources for creation of European Innovation Space and establishment of friendly environment for development of entrepreneurship have been launched.
Small and medium size companies are recognized as a basic driver for development of innovations and improving competitiveness of European economy. European SMEs represent: 99.8% of all European enterprises, 67.1% of private-sector jobs and more than 80% of employment in some industrial sectors such as the manufacture of metal products, construction and furniture.
Innovation is today more crucial than ever if a business is to survive and prosper. Markets are changing faster and there is increased competition from emerging economies such as China and India.SME are the main source of innovations but putting innovative ideas into practice is often much harder for them than for large firms. Small businesses frequently lack the financial resources and the in-house expertise to do research, and it is difficult for them to find a competent business partner to develop their ideas and to access programmes which co-fund research and innovation activities.
In this respect in 2008 EC adopted Small Business Act . It aims to improve the overall policy approach to entrepreneurship, to irreversibly anchor the “Think Small First” principle in policymaking from regulation to public service, and to promote SMEs’ growth by helping them tackle the remaining problems which hamper their development.
The new Europe 2020 strategy put forward seven flagship initiatives in order to continue the overall progress achieved. Among them are "Innovation Union", which should improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation and to accelerate transformation of innovative ideas into products and services that create growth and jobs; The Initiative "An industrial policy for the globalisation era" aims to improve the business environment, notably for SMEs, and to support the development of a strong and sustainable industrial base able to compete globally.
Bulgarian ICT Cluster strongly supports the European policies for development of innovations and entrepreneurship. Boosting development of SME and supporting innovations in the field of ICT in Bulgaria by participation in many European programs, networks and projects.
FORENTIN – Forum for Entrepreneurs and Investors
Achieve More Partnership
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
I3E - Promoting Innovations in the Industrial Informatics and Embedded Systems Sectors through Networking
OP "Development of the Competitivness of the Bulgarian Economy"- Procedure "Development of startup innovative companies"
Seal of e-Excellence
Cluster Initiative Greenbook, pointed cluster initiatives as a central part of industrial, regional and innovation policy-making across the developed world. They have costumed objectives and policy in order to fit to national policy traditions and characteristics. Their activities may include information gathering and dissemination, cluster analysis, networking lobbying export promotion regional attractiveness and branding, innovation and cluster growth. The European study on clusters initiatives underlined that one of the most common objective and activity is government relations and lobbying.
Bulgarian ICT Cluster is one of the organizations from ICT sector, which has strong positions and good working relations with state administrations.
In this respect ICT Cluster is working on four directions: ICT policy, clusters policy, state policy for ICT SME and ICT sector branding and positioning.
ICT Cluster was involved in the elaboration of a number of state policies and acts. The organization is a member of ICT Consultative Council in the Ministry of Transport and Communication and Information Technologies - responsible state body for Bulgarian ICT policy. Representatives of ICT Cluster are members of different working groups in the Ministry. In 2009 with the strong support of ICT Cluster and Broadband Initiative the national strategy for broadband was adopted by the Parliament, as a an official national strategy. At the moment ICT cluster is working for development of national broadband infrastructure and development of e-government in Bulgaria. ICT Cluster was strongly involved in elaboration of key laws: Law for Electronic Communications; Law of Electronic Governance, E-health strategy , e .t.a
ICT Cluster is the main partner of the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism in the process of national cluster policy creation. Representatives of ICT Cluster were involved during discussions for the development of a call for clusters’ support as a part of Operational Program Competitiveness of Bulgarian Economy.
State Policy for ICT SME
ICT Clusters maintains constructive relationship and work close with Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion Agency in the process of ICT SME state support and promotion on different events and fairs
ICT Sector Branding and Positioning
Branding and positioning Bulgaria as a high tech spot is a long complicated process which requires strong and sustainable engagement of national authorities and institutions as well as ICT branch organizations, associations and companies. ICT Cluster in cooperation with BASCOM, BAIT, Web Association and ASTEL are reliable partners of Bulgarian Invest Agency and Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion Agency for promoting Bulgarian ICT business on the world market and to attract foreign investments in the field.
In 2005 Bulgarian ICT Cluster developed the “Strategy for Competitiveness of Bulgaria on the World Markets” which later was adopted by the Parliament as a national strategy.