Clusters are defined as agglomerations of companies and related actors active in a common economic field in a geographically delimited area that interact and cooperate on different levels. Research has found that despite the breakthrough of information and communication technologies geography matters, and industries seems to concentrate more into different clusters. The probably most well known cluster globally is Silicon Valley. Clusters creates possibilities for specialization among actors and it is common to find specialized suppliers, financial actors, public actors, research and development organizations and different kind of intermediaries like networks and business organizations. Companies located in clusters can get a competitive advantage by drawing on a number of possible strategic advantages that are frequent to these places. Clusters often have a more specialized and qualified workforce; there are knowledge spillovers and learning that develops through the interaction between both specialized customers and suppliers. There is much research showing a link between clusters and innovative capacity, e.g. the European Cluster Observatory.
Cluster initiatives are organized efforts to strengthen the competitiveness of clusters. These projects often involve companies, development agencies and/or research and educational institutions. Cluster Initiatives can be seen as cluster based networks (more on networks see below). In the BSR Stars programme the cluster initiatives are used as intermediaries to facilitate collaboration between clusters.
In many societies there is a growing awareness that they are faced by a number of grand societal challenges, which cannot be managed by countries by themselves and that require new and complex solutions created in public-private partnerships across borders. Climate change; tightening supplies of energy, water and food; pandemics; Security and a growing demand for health care and other welfare services, due to ageing populations are examples of such challenges. At the same time it is recognized that by solving these issues new business opportunities will be developed.
Research & innovation milieus:
Research and Innovation milieus are long term research and innovation partnerships between academia and industry and sometimes including public actors.
Networks are alliances of firms that collaborate to reach a common economic goal or individual goals that is facilitated by the network. Networks vary greatly with regard to set-up of partners, purposes and openness. Four main groups of SME-networks with regard to purposes are commonly referred to:
- Joint Marketing Networks. These serve the purpose of marketing the SMEs goods and services.
- Distribution Networks. The member companies work together to manage distribution and logistics jointly. Through these activities costs can be cut and by for example offering system deliveries the members can be able to reach new market segments.
- Procurement Networks. These often serve the purpose of reducing purchasing prices through volume purchases.
- Development Networks. These focus on joint technological development, for products and processes.
In the BSR Stars programme the focus is on forming new transnational SME networks, i.e. cross-country partnership between SMEs from different BSR countries. In the programme these networks can be between networks from different countries, but also involving single actors from countries that are interested in being part of transnational networks.
Alliances are agreements between two or more separate firms that involve ongoing resource contributions from each to create joint value. Alliances often have terms that cannot be completely specified and agreed upon at the outset, but they share some kind of management and some of the outcome. In the BSR Stars the term strategic alliance is used for alliances of companies, researchers and other actors that work together in an area with the purpose of becoming long term globally competitive.
The triple helix refers to the fact that public, private and academic to an increasing degree is collaborating and that the roles of the different actors are also changing, where the different actor groups are taking up activities that were previously carried out by the other actors groups. In the BSR Stars the term Triple Helix processes is used for active involvement and cooperation between regional actors within research, politics and the business society that develop a joint vision and coordinate resources that are invested in a region with the purpose to gain increased innovation capacity.
An innovation hub is an environment with a mix of research, development and entrepreneurship that drives renewal of products, production, processes, services and business models and impact at global scale.
Innovative procurement is processes where public procurement is used to stimulate innovations by specifying levels of performance or functionality that is not achievable with off-the-shelf solutions and hence require an innovation to meet the demand.
It seems to be a trend that Companies to an increasing degree develop new products and services in open processes involving other businesses, researchers and customers. Businesses combine externally and internally developed techniques to create their business offerings. By not only using internal resources, more flexibility and more competitive offers is created. Likewise a value for internally developed technology that will not be used in the company’s offer can be created by trading the intellectual property rights.