In November 2017 Food Innovation Australia Limited’s (FIAL) Chairman, Peter Schutz, and Managing Director, Mirjana Prica travelled to Bogota, Colombia for the TCI Network’s (the Global Practitioners Network for Competitiveness, Clusters and Innovation) 20th Anniversary Global Conference.
The theme of this conference was: “the future of clusters through cross-country and cross-regional collaboration.” The focus was on collaboration, as well as the benefits of complementary alliances between developed and developing countries, such as improved policies and business practices. The conference also identified emerging cluster trends. The conference found cluster initiatives must be approached from the bottom up, as well as the top down. Businesses must own and drive the collaborations within the clusters, while the role of government is as both a financier and supporter of the initiatives. The main challenge for cluster initiatives is to ensure that they make an economic impact at a local, as well as a national level. This will be dictated by the governance and professionalism of the cluster, as well as it’s alignment with government policy.
To be successful, cluster initiatives must also consider:
- The link with academia must be underpinned by a business pull, and clusters must connect with people in academia who are passionate about engaging with industry.
- One of the largest constraints of a cluster is a skills mismatch, and this must be addressed by training and the development of a cluster ignition team.
- Building knowledge infrastructures and centres of excellence, such as incubators and accelerators, stimulates innovation and allows companies to build capabilities and access new ideas and inventions.
- Identify gaps, and then utilise the knowledge and technology brought by FDI (foreign direct investment) to address these gaps and increase competitiveness.
- Embrace new technologies to ensure the success of a cluster. The conference gave insight into the importance of spreading knowledge and building capability for cluster initiatives to succeed. For example, tacit knowledge, or knowhow, is becoming incredibly important to the success of a nation’s economy. Collective or team knowhow is the key to driving production and diversity in a country – as people move within a country, the collective knowhow increases as the capability of the people builds and growth is accelerated.
The conference also stressed the importance of strategic policy setting to assist clusters. Government policies and public inputs such as information and resources facilitate the growth of an economy and productivity. Policy should be based around the following:
- Learning and reviewing, as policy should never be rigid.
- The significance of a long-term perspective.
- A collaboration between the public and private sector.
- Close co-operation between the different government agencies.