More and more technology companies, planning to expand abroad into the EU markets, are becoming convinced to cooperate within organisations associating entrepreneurs from the same industry. Access to new, international contacts through proven partners, international cooperation networking or the opportunity of organising on-line networking meetings. All this can be offered to entrepreneurs by IT clusters.
In Poland and worldwide, the situation since the spring has strongly verified the plans of owners of many companies, as uncertain times have come for the business environment. Therefore, an important role is played by IT clusters in supporting these entities in such a difficult period, i.e. organisations associating enterprises from the same or related sectors that cooperate with each other. Several dozen clusters are actively operating in Poland, including a few that exclusively focus on technology companies.
Development through other companies
As early as two years ago, the conclusions of the European Council indicated that companies belonging to clusters are more innovative than those not belonging to a network, they register more trademarks and apply for more patents. Moreover, they cooperate and export more than SME companies outside such organisations. In turn, the research European Observatory for Clusters and Industrial Change, Cluster programmes in Europe and beyond has shown that clusters can strengthen cooperation between individual companies and increase the competitiveness of SMEs. – My several years of experience show that technology companies can accelerate their development and strengthen their potential if they are able to use the resources of the cluster in a skilful way. A possibility of building synergies, co-creating various initiatives and mutual exchange of experience can directly translate into faster growth of a company in a given market. Active involvement in the activities of a cluster can be an important lever for development – especially in times of increasingly rapid changes and ubiquitous business transformation. – says Przemysław Skrzek, the originator and co-founder of ITCorner, and currently a member of the association’s board. In his opinion, the largest technology clusters in Europe have not only extensive expert knowledge of their members and the know-how base of their partners, but also have access to cluster programmes with national or regional specialisation or innovation strategies. If the organisation is dominated by a group of companies specialising in the area of e.g. Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Internet of Things (IoT), then it is much easier to network cooperation among other technological clusters in Europe, where there are companies with a similar business profile. Such companies may also be provided with external funding for international cooperation.
Therefore, the role of clusters in the process of internationalisation of small and medium-sized IT companies can be very important. – Support on the part of the cluster may consist, among other things, of obtaining information about selected industries by its coordinators on EU markets or searching for potential partners for international cooperation or foreign events. The cluster may also participate in the preparation of an international project with the participation of a consortium of IT companies and support the application process for international programmes supporting the development of technological innovations. – explains Maciej Gawlik, PhD, an expert in agile management methodologies and academic lecturer. In his opinion, Polish technology companies operating in clusters should pay special attention to those European markets where the level of development of cluster organisations is very high. For several years it has been clearly visible that the Scandinavian countries, mainly Norway and Denmark and Sweden, have a strongly developed cluster policy at the national and regional level. The governmental organisations of these countries, supporting the development of associations of entrepreneurs from related industries, at the same time indirectly take care of increasing the competitive potential of domestic companies on foreign markets. The period of financing of clusters in the Scandinavian countries, depending on the given programme, ranges from 3 to 10 years. For example, in Sweden, the Vinnväxt programme provides support for 10 years and, where justified, up to 16 years.
Partners in the digital transition
The EU’s emerging 2021-2027 perspective will enable the new budget to finance not only the digital transition processes after the economic crisis, but also to strengthen the innovative capacity of SMEs in EU foreign markets. – Therefore, Polish technology companies may be a natural partner for SME enterprises in EU countries, planning the transformation towards Industry 4.0 or digitisation of processes. Clusters may be involved in initiating cooperation and creating new projects or partnerships – explains Marcin Kowalski, coordinator for strategic projects in ITCorner.
This is all the more so because the European Commission sees the importance of including clusters as participants in the so-called Digital Innovation Hubs. The document European Digital Innovation Hubs in Digital Europe Programme states that clusters, as actors of innovative ecosystems, can perform many functions in hubs. Especially in the area of providing innovative consulting services and training to improve the digital competence of employees of small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the aforementioned report, the potential of such organisations should be used especially for the transformation of the digital economy, e.g. through the transfer of technological know-how and supporting the internationalisation of companies.
A public task co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland within the competition “Public Diplomacy 2020 – a new dimension”.