EU Countries Visit NI SME’s For Collaboration


Clusters and collaboration make big business sense for SME’s 

Delegates from seven European countries have arrived in Northern Ireland to explore how SME’s can collaborate for competitive advantage.

Clusters and collaboration make big business sense for SMEs. Pictured are Juan Domingo Olabari, SPRI, Business Development Agency, Jo Scott, Conference MC, Kristianne Paasche, Innovation Norway, Line Magnussen, Innovation Norway and Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary Department for the Economy.

The group are part of over 80 delegates, including representatives from local SME’s, attending the “Powering Innovation and Building Capacity” conference organised by Invest Northern Ireland and the Department for the Economy as part of their involvement in a European wide project on cluster development.  Nine partners from seven European Union regions are involved in the €1.8million CLUSTERS3 project which is funded by Interreg Europe and the European Regional Development Fund.

Partners include; The Business Development Agency of the Basque Government, Spain, Tecnalia Research & Innovation Foundation, Spain, TCI Network-The Competitiveness Institute, Spain, Department of Regional Policy, Poland, Piedmont Region, Italy, Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia, Hajdú-Bihar County Council, Hungary and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scotland.

Opening the conference held at Titanic Belfast, Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy said: “It is widely recognised that being part of a cluster provides firms with competitive advantages including economies of scale, increased productivity and better innovation which individually they cannot obtain on their own.

“Given that Northern Ireland is a SME dominated economy, it is important that government promotes an environment which provides the conditions for these business to grow and develop their products and services working together in successful clusters.

“The CLUSTERS3 project provides a valuable opportunity to learn from other regions, to develop networks and ultimately take forward and better inform a Northern Ireland clusters policy aimed at supporting the development of a globally competitive economy that benefits everyone.”

Kristianne Paache, Innovation Norway, speaking at the conference said “Innovation Norway launched their first cluster programme in 2002 and we look forward to sharing our experiences and documented effects for economic development in SMEs and regions. We also find it very valuable to get an insight into other countries practices and challenges – this is how we grow and develop good cluster practices for the future.”

During their three day visit to Northern Ireland, the European delegation will attend the one day conference as well as a series of workshops and visits. Conference speakers include internationally renowned cluster experts from Innovation Norway, Quebec Ground Transportation Cluster and the Basque Institute of Competitiveness who will share their experiences of how clusters have helped to drive economic growth in their regions.