A cluster - why and for whom?
When companies working in the same or similar fields perceive a need to act together and this results in common goals being defined and joint activities being planned and executed, a cluster is starting to develop. In addition to the private sector, the public and third sectors also have a role to play in cluster development. If the private sector is the main initiator of cooperation and the third sector (support organisations) an active cooperation partner, the primary role of the public sector is to create systematic, cooperation-oriented support mechanisms and simplified processes for the development of cluster associations.
Supporting clusters at the national level
In Estonia, clusters and joint activities are supported at the national level within the framework of three Enterprise Estonia (EAS) programmes: the first for the development of technological development centres, the second for cluster development and the third for competence centres. The goal of the cluster development programme is to improve the international competitiveness of entrepreneurs through the implementation of cooperative cluster projects, thereby increasing the companies’ added value, creating new products and services, improving export turnover and promoting cooperation between companies, and well as companies and scientific institutions, in the same or different sectors. The grants available at the national level and the application requirements are available here.
Cluster support at the local level
A contribution to the development of cluster associations can also be made at the local level. Thus, from 2009-2014 the City of Tallinn has provided to the clusters in the area’s key fields of activity the opportunity to reduce the self-financing required for a cluster project with help from the city. Only full-application projects that have been approved for financing by the EAS were eligible; whereas at least 50% of the business in the cluster must be located in Harjumaa and the cluster must be active in one of the following prioritised fields of activity: 1) the service economy (incl. creative economy, tourism, transport and logistics, health services or financial services; 2) future technologies (incl. health technologies, mechatronics, environmental technologies); 3) information and communications technologies. See the list of supported projects here.
To support the international visibility, City of Tallinn has launched a joint portal for Estonian clusters www.estonianclusters.ee to provide first hand information about active clusters, their events and contacts for networking. In addition, informal meetings in form of Clustering club will be organized once a month for the clusters to share ideas, find local partners and initiate joint projects.